Saturday, 3 November 2012

The Sunflower and the Seeds.

This Summer I grew sunflowers in my back garden. By the time they were in bloom they had reached some height, the tallest standing strong at 8’ 9’’.

After a particularly windy Irish afternoon, this giant suffered for it’s audacity to peek its head quite so high above the parapet of the garden wall, and blew over in the gale. I cut the head off it and brought it into the conservatory to dry it out and see if I could harvest the seeds.


A month later, and on investigation this afternoon I realised it was ready to go, and so I manhandled the seeds out of it, a messy job that I’m sure people watching me over the wall wrestling with a flower wondered what I was at.

The incredible thing was that when I was done, I was basically back to where I started 6 months ago. The seeds that came out were the same as the one I planted in the ground, only now, instead of just 1, I have 896 of them.

(Yes. I counted.)

In May, I put 1 in the ground and now I have 896 more. Each one brimming with the spark of life and potential to create a whole new flower next Spring.

It made me think of that verse in the Bible where Jesus says:

“Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.
 But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” 
– John 12:24

It’s a verse that has been on my mind this week.

Last weekend, I heard the tragic news that a girl I worked alongside some years ago, now serving as a missionary in South Africa, had died in a car crash along with her mother who was visiting at the time.

I don’t pretend to know the reasons behind why the things that happen happen, or even possess the grace to sit back and blithely say to God, “Your will be done, Lord”, because what has happened to that family is a tragedy. A young woman committed to following God to the ends of the earth, serving the least and the lost, dying in this way alongside her mother. I can’t pretend to understand. Not even a little.

But when I read that verse, something speaks to me.

That even if I don’t understand, even if there isn’t a soul on this earth who can possibly get it, perhaps God does.

My prayer now is that the story, the faith and the sacrificial life that Brianne led echo throughout her friends, family and beyond.

Just as with those sunflower seeds, may this one life laid down be a seed.

A seed that will result in many more, just like hers, springing up, inspired by the choices she made, the way of life she chose, and the example of the One she chose to follow.

I don’t pretend to have the answers, or even to be anywhere near okay with what has happened, to understand even a thimbleful of what the family of these two women is going through now. I don’t have answers. But this verse gives me something else, something that is sometimes even more difficult to come by.


Wednesday, 26 September 2012

A Blessed Life?

Last week, I heard a western pastor say “We are so blessed. We live in the most blessed time in the most blessed country in the world. God has truly blessed us.”

We in the western world have a lot of stuff. We have abundant food, roofs over our heads, healthcare (at least some of us do...oooh...topical) and almost every comfort that we could desire. 

We are truly blessed.


Because as I got to thinking, I started realising that many of the material blessings we have are ours because we live in a culture and society that takes them for ourselves. Do we thank God for the things he has given us, when, in actual fact we have just taken? Do we find ourselves in this 'blessed' position because we stand on the shoulders of others around the world?

Those who work long hours in dangerous conditions so we can have shiny iPads and the newest iPhone on offer.

Who skip school to stitch clothes so that we can have something cheap off the rack.

Who suffer the consequences of climate change because of our unwillingness to compromise or sacrifice on our creature comforts, even at the cost of human life.

And it got me thinking about these “blessings” we take for granted. 

Can we really use the term ‘blessing’ for something we have taken that was never ours to take? Is God really choosing us, favouring us, over the millions or billions who had the bad luck of being born on the wrong side of the first/third world divide?

Are we blessed, or are we just greedy, selfish individuals who cover up that side of ourselves we dislike by masquerading our triumphs as blessings? Telling ourselves that we are blessed so we don’t ever have to question our actions or change the ways we interact with the global community? 

How many of the blessings we thank God for have we deprived others of by taking from them to increase our plenty?

I’m challenged by my attitude to the things around me. If I’m thankful for something, if I’m feeling blessed, then I want to know that I don’t have it at the expense of someone else's misfortune or suffering. That by my choices I am not clambering over fellow members of the human race to perch myself comfortably as king of the castle.

I was angered by the words of the pastor. But also, with retrospection, more angry at myself. Although he was the one saying the words, I was the one living the life. Living a life no differently from those around me. 

A life without thought for those who are cursed so I can stay "blessed".

May that change.

Friday, 3 August 2012

A Very British Summer Day at Wimbledon in Pictures.

I said my day out at Wimbledon was a story for another day, and here it is. It was a bit of a rollercoaster with the rain, but an interesting day seeing at least some world class tennis.

Prepare for a little overkill... There's quite a few pictures coming up!

Walking down the road towards Wimbledon, spread out in front. Note the sun still shining and blue sky...

 We got in, and straight away saw Andy Murray warming up on the warm-up courts. 

 And then the man, the myth, the legend, Mr Federer. I had to push the womenfolk aside to get this shot.

 And then the hailstones started. That's right. Hailstones. Not just rain. This is the British summer after all, we don't do things by halves.

 With the rain on, we took our seats on Court No. 1 and waited for it to subside.
Might as well enjoy the traditional strawberries and cream at Wimbledon while we wait...

 After about an hour, the rain subsided and we were ready to go...
 Aaaaaand....before the players made it on court. More rain.

 So off we went to explore the grounds a bit. Henman Hill/Murray's Field.

Watching the action on Centre Court. Jealous of that roof...

 And we have tennis! Djokovic vs. Fognini. The Serbians vs. the Italians.
 A happy crowd on Court no. 1.

 After an hour and on a tiebreaker for the first set....we have rain.

 Back to the hill.

And eventually, around 6:30, we have blue sky! (I also forgot to take photos of the end...Djokovic won, but it was an exciting third set).

 We were hoping to see another match, Venus Williams was up next, but the ground was getting too slippy with the evening coming on. Sad to miss out on seeing her.
 Too wet to play tennis on, but not too wet to cut...? Unacceptable...
 As we walked out though, there were still a few matches nearing their end. Got to see the end of the second set of Lepchenko (USA) vs. Cepede (Paraguay)

 And I got to understand what it feels like to stand behind people taller than me. I did not enjoy it. Not just one, but 3.

And then, as night was starting to fall, all tennis was done with... Covers covered, and we headed off to get the slow train back home. Great day out at Wimbledon! Very thankful for the opportunity to get there, will definitely be applying for tickets there for next July after my day out.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Harvest comes a couple of months early.

I've been eating some good healthy food from the garden more often recently as things start ripening up and filling out (particularly the peas...I have peas coming out of my ears!) 

Here's a few pictures of things that are currently brightening up my dinner plate.

I think i might be proud.
 Broad beans. I wasn't expecting the spongey bed the beans are lying in.
 Peas. They are so sweet and delicious. This picture was a few weeks ago, they are bursting out of the pods now.
Tonight's job, digging up some potatoes. They aren't massive, but more than enough for a few dinners, and plenty still in the ground!

Gardening has been a great experience for me this year. I have loved getting out into the patch in the bright evenings, (though my joy is lessened when the job is weeding..)

Still plenty growing though. Not quite at the end of the experiment just yet! Onions, broccoli spring onions and carrots are still to come. Not to mention the sunflowers, currently standing at around 5ft. I'm singing to them to make them grow, it's a competition in church this Summer, and one I intend on winning...

If you're intrigued on the gardening front, check out the regular blogging of my garden mentor Hugh Cassidy. He's the inspiration behind me getting out this year, and the first port of call with any gardening queries. Happy reading!

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Olympic Fever

I had the great treat of going to London this past weekend to see some of the Olympic events currently dominating the screens and minds of the world's population.

On Saturday, the parentals, the cousin and I got to attend the first day of the badminton group stages at Wembley Arena. A great day full of some incredible play that both inspired me to get back on the court and also made me realise that I may never really played it at all...though comparing myself to the pros might be a bit harsh!

Then on Sunday we went to Wimbledon to see some Olympic tennis. This was a bit of a wash out unfortunately (a story for another day) but we at least got to see one full match! Djokovic came out on top with a few rain intervals.

Back to work in Dublin now. It's a quieter time over the Summer, but I've been catching up on Aaron Sorkin's new drama "The Newsroom", I came to the "West Wing" party about 7 seasons and some change late, so I'm determined to get in on the ground floor with this offering. Great script (expect anything less?) and fantastic to see a show on the air with some incredible acting that actually gets your heart racing. Fantastic stuff. I'm only 2 episodes in and hooked already. Highly recommended.

So I'm thankful for an incredible opportunity to see a plethora of world class athletes this weekend, and for TV that challenges the status quo and gets me thinking.

Friday, 1 June 2012

What I Learnt About Sin While Weeding.

Did I mention I’ve been growing a garden...? (sarcasm)
With the sun over the past few weeks, the plants have been springing up, but so too unfortunately have the weeds, so this evening it was game on for Tom vs. Nature. 

While I was weeding, I was thinking about life, and God was revealing a few things to me as I worked about the nature of sin in my life and in the world. Here’s a few things I was thinking about.

  • The reason I only got around to it today was because I didn’t think the problem was as bad as it was. From afar it just looked like there was a few little green shoots popping up every here and there, but when I actually started pulling them out, it took a long time, and by the end I had a massive pile of weeds. It’s the same in our lives, we might look at ourselves and think, “Well, I’m not THAT bad off, there’s just a few things here and there that could be better” but when we get down to actually dealing with them, we realise that a little bit here and there spread across a life can actually make a pretty big pile. We realise too late sometimes that the energy and potential that we have is dissipating, not into growing the good things, but sheltering and tending the things that we would rather weren’t even there in the first place.

  • Some of the weeds that looked the smallest and the most defenceless had the deepest roots, and pulling out the top part doesn’t fix anything. We need to deal with the root issues of the sin in our lives, deal with the reasons behind why we do the things we do, and don’t do the things we know we should, otherwise, we’re just pulling off leaves hoping that the tree will eventually fall down.
  • Dealing with weeds isn’t a once-a-season job, it’s something that needs to be constantly done. Seeds of weeds (*fun to say*) are constantly landing and taking root in the garden, so weeding is a job that needs to be done again and again. Dealing with our sin isn’t a once-in-a-lifetime thing either. Unfortunately, on this side of eternity, we are broken, and we’re staying broken...thankfully, in Him we have the opportunity to be getting better and better day by day, but sin can still take root within us, starting from the tiniest seed, it can grow so quickly. We need to be a people who are living lives examining ourselves, being willing to do the hard work of weeding out the things that are not of God within us. 
So there’s my tuppence worth of thoughts on sin for the evening. I learn about God through action and doing things...and lots of what I’m doing in gardening these days, hence all the analogies. 
I’m really thankful for outside space to get my hands dirty and to grow things. It really is incredible, I’d encourage you to give it a go. If a novice like me can do it, anyone can.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

"How are you?"....."Fine thanks!"

Ephesians 4:25 says:

"Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully 
to your neighbour, for we are all members of one body."

In the communities of faith that we belong to, how often do we put on a mask to hide our truth feelings or emotions? How often do we say one thing and mean another. In His word, God tells us that we are all a part of one body, one unit working towards His kingdom goals. He tells us that we need not pretend to be someone we are not, or that we are not wrestling with whatever we find ourselves up against. 

If we truly treated these communities as a body, would we act differently?

A broken foot does not hide its brokenness from the eyes or the hand, rather, when they are aware of what is happening, the other parts of the body come to the aid of the part that is not working as it should or could be. 

There is something terribly wrong with our communities when we feel like we have to put on a brave face when stepping through the doors of church on a Sunday morning. We are missing out on something wonderful when, in our communities  we fail to truly be ourselves, as they prompt and even encourage us to smile and explain our problems away. 

May the churches and communities where we gather together under God's name be places where we can be honest with ourselves and with each other, recognising that to fail to do this is to miss one of the greatest gifts God gives to us.

May we put off falsehood, and speak truthfully to those who have been entrusted with our care, as we are entrusted with theirs.

And may we have bucketloads of grace for one another, because although we worship a God who has covered us in it, who's supply is limitless and unending, it seems to be the one thing that we in our communities always seem to run out of for eachother.