Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Reflection with the monks...

Last week myself and our 2 interns travelled to Rostrevor for an overnight retreat with the Benedictine Monks in Holy Cross Monastery. The purpose of this retreat was us to reflect back on the year that has passed and acknowledge all that we have learnt through this experience. I had heard much about this place from friends but had never been myself and did not really know what to expect! It was a fascinating experience and very beneficial. Silence plays a major role for the Benedictines but as Brother Thierry informed us it is always for the purpose of listening to God. Silence simply for the sake of silence is not healthy.

In silence the Benedictines believe we expose ourselves to 3 truths:
  1. The truth about who God is.
  2. The truth about others.
  3. The truth about ourselves.
The reason we constantly avoid silence in our daily lives and indeed often find it uncomfortable is because we fear these 3 truths in our lives.
It was 24 hours in arguably one of the most beautiful (as you can see from the pictures) and peaceful places in N. Ireland. I would highly recommend it for anyone who wants to make some space to listen to God.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Romania Part 5...

Yesterday we spent the morning running a programme with the younger children in the orphanage. There were about 25 children there aged between 3 and 12. It was fantastic to see the smiles on their faces as they sang, listened to a story, made bracelets and played games. We found the children to be very affectionate- they would just throw their arms around you! I suppose this is understandable given that the staff there would never be able to give 50+ children the attention and affection they need. There were orphans there who are now young adults but still live there as they continue studying. It saddens me to think that some of the young children will probably still be living there in 15 years time. This experience was a tremendous challenge for the team as I had challenged everyone to try to enter into their suffering and imagine what it would be like to walk a mile in the shoes of an orphan in Romania. It was clear that none of us wanted to leave that place knowing the empty lives the children live. So today we are back on the bumpy road for 7 hours back to Budapest to fly back home tonight. This has been a remarkable journey shared with an incredible team of young people. This morning I have been reminded of the words of Eph 3:20 'to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.'

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Romania Part 4...

The last couple of days have been fantastic. The team have loved the kids club each morning and the children have had a fantastic time! This afternoon we were able to visit the orphanage again but communication problems meant that the younger children were in bed. All was not lost though as we were able to go to the river and play games with the older children. Tomorrow is our last full day and was scheduled to be a day off but the team have chosen to run a kids programme at the orphanage in the morning! This team continues to amaze me! One thing i will never forget is our evening team times and the power of people's stories of their journey with God. I am in no doubt that we have all been drawn closer to God in this place.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Romania part 3!

On Saturday we were helping to paint a church centre in Jibou. The team worked very hard and made great progress. In the afternoon we visited a local orphanage. This was tough for the whole team to see children as young as 3 without a home. We were told that most of the 57 children in the orphanage have families but they either dont want them or cant afford them. We hope to go back and spend more time with the children this week but have encountered some unexpected red tape today that means we may not be able to. Please pray this will be overcome as the team really want to go back there. On Sunday we went to church for 2 hours and 15 minutes! It included 3 sermons and was an endurance test for us all i think! We sang a couple of songs and some of the team were interviewed and shared a testimony. They were great! Today we did a childrens programme in a small village which was great fun. The team loved playing with the kids who all seemed to have a great time. It was incredible to see the lads in our team playing with the children without any of the inhibitions they might have at home! We will be back there again tomorrow! Sadly this afternoon, Tyrrell tripped and broke his toe and is now in plaster cast and on crutches. This has been a devastating for us all but Tyrrell has been in high spirits since and is determined not to let it effect the team mood! Please pray for him and us all! Cant believe both interns have broken legs in the last fortnight!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Romania Part 2...

Bush Camp was a great experience. The camp was located in a grass area surrounded by forest in the hills of Transylvania. It was beautiful! It was not meant to be a comfortable experience but a taste of real life for many Romanians. In 40degree heat with limited water, cooking over a fire and a pit latrine, Bush Camp definitely achieved its objective! One commodity we have definitely come to appreciate is a water. With the intense heat there is a shortage of water in rural areas as we have experienced in both Szelag Seg and Bush Camp.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Romania update 1...

This building is set to be a retreat centre for recovering alcoholics when finished. At home it would be built in less than 1 yeah and yet it was started 11 years ago. The sad thing is that i can see virtually no progress since last year. The building work is funded entirely by donations which are few and far between. This must be so frustrating and yet God has reminded me as he did last year of the importance of patience, perseverance and faithfulness. I have also been reminded that slow is not necessarily bad as it has meant that hundreds more people have been a part of this project and their lives impacted as a result! This team have blown me away by how hard they have worked and embraced every challenge that has come their way!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Off to Romania!

So Im off to Romania this morning with this wonderful group of young people! During our time away we will be involved in children's work and practical work. We will also engage in a 2 day bush camp experience! Please pray that this experience will be life changing for us all! I'll try to update this blog whilst away!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Time for retreat...

Im on PCI youth workers retreat for a few days at the beautiful location of white park bay. Could there be a more beautiful place to go to reflect and re-charge with the one who created it? Mark Yaconnelli is facilitating the retreat which is very exciting!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Take back the city...

Im at the Snow patrol gig as we speak! Its amazing!

Monday, March 09, 2009

Roll on Cham '10!

Chamonix '09 finished well! The snowfall started on Wednesday evening and didn't stop until Friday! Fresh powder for 2 days and although visibility was poor at times we still had an amazing time in superb off piste conditions!

One of the absolute highlights of this trip has to be new friendships! No one on the trip knew everyone! Out of the 10 people on the Cham '09 adventure there were 6 i did not know! The great thing was that everyone got on well and had such a laugh together! So much so that i think everyone has secured their place for Cham '10 - bring it on!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Lookin for some powder...

Chamonix '09 has been a great week so far! The snow boarding has been amazing! It really is one of my favourite things to do which makes it sad that it has to be concentrated into 6 consecutive days a year! Sadly, despite the prevalence of cloud there has been no fresh snow this week and Im really hoping for some to make the last 2days an off piste paradise! Ah well, i really shouldn't complain- i am on my holidays after all!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Day 1 on the piste...

So we arrived safely yesterday with our boards which was a bonus! First day on the slopes was fantastic! Snow is good and there are more than enough runs 2keep us busy! No sun 2day but hopefully that will come 2mor! Muscles are sore but feeling contented!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Chamonix '09 begins...

Im off to Chamonix today for a week of fun in the snow! I was there in 2006 and so i know the resort is amazing! I've never been anywhere else that has had so many pistes to keep you entertained! The sno conditions all across Europe this year are fantastic which makes me very excited!

We only booked this trip last week as we wanted to get a good price. The trade off has been that we are unsure if there will be room for our snowboards on the plane! Sadly they didn't tell us this when we booked which has made this week a littel more stressful but thankfully we have managed to negotiate a plan B should the boards not make it to France!

So really i can't complain, life is good and i have a week ahead of me where all i have to worry about is getting from the top to the bottom of the mountain without breaking anything!

I'll try to post some pics during the week!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Lent, take-aways & the Wing...

So after a day of pancakes yesterday, Lent begins today! That period of 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday where we remember the time that Jesus fasted in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights and was tempted by the Devil. We often choose to deny ourselves something during Lent as a way to realise our own weaknesses and grasp the intense significance of the crucifixion. It also gives us a deep and powerful longing for the resurrection and a joy on Easter Sunday.

Easter can often sneak up on us but by observing Lent we take a chance to remember the dark before the dawn, the sin that sent Jesus to the cross.
Lent helps us experience our part in the Passion (or suffering) of Jesus. We face our humanity during Lent: we learn that sin still dwells in us, that we still carry darkness. We learn that we, like his disciples, would likely have fallen asleep as Jesus prayed for deliverance in the garden, and, also, that we would likely have denied knowing him as he silently accepted his death sentence.
This Lent I have been challenged (and so have challenged teh young people under my care) to consider denying myself some pleasure as a means to remind me of Christ’s sacrifice and prepare for the celebration of that at Easter. However, as well as NOT doing something, I also feel motivated by the challenge of Christ to DO something or GO someplace this Lent and stretch myself in my SERVICE to Him.

So for Lent i have chosen to give up 2 things i love very much - take-aways & the West Wing! The former will be a challenge to my weekly lazy eating habits and the latter will be incredibly difficult as i have just acquired the entire DVD collection and am currently in the midst of season 2! It was never meant to be easy! I'm just wondering has anyone else out there given up anything for Lent this year?

Monday, February 23, 2009

I got soul but im not a soldier...

What a great weekend! It was the 1st birthday of my niece and nephew, James & Anna and so we marked the occasion with a party in Malahide. Hope you enjoy the couple of photos here!

Then, lo and behold i got offered a last minute ticket to see The Killers at the Odyssey. Being a big fan of the band i couldn't say no and so made haste up the road from Dublin to Belfast! I think i missed the first 25mins of the gig but it was still AMAZING! 'All these things that I've done' was definitely a highlight as was 'Human' and 'Mr Brightside'!

Friday, February 13, 2009

So the gauntlet was thrown down...

Given that we had begun a theme of music videos for the weekend we decided to challenge the young people in their teams to make their own on the weekend. So they were each given a popular song and about 45minutes to film! Some of the leaders and young people then edited the videos for the next day! Three of the videos are shown below. Can i just state that my team won with an excellent rendition of 'Spice up your life' by the Spice Girls! Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Winter Retreat 2009...

I've just recovered from our annual Winter Retreat at the weekend - spent the whole of yesterday in bed with a thumping headache - could this be a symptom that i can no longer stick the pace of staying up to 4am (a rhetorical question so please don't feel the need to answer it below!)?!?! We had a fantastic weekend at Castlewellan Castle. My hope for the weekend was that everyone would leave with the knowledge that God had spoken to them personally. As such, 2 of the 3 sessions were centred on reflection & experiential learning to allow the young people space to listen to God. This seemed to be received very well by the them and the addition of small groups allowed the young people to discuss their experiences of what God was saying to them.

On top of all that we had the best banter ever with music videos forming the theme for the year. The leaders produced 3 music videos in advance of the weekend which you can enjoy below!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Exploring the Jewish World...

Been quiet on here for the last couple of weeks because I've been studying! I decided after Christmas to sign up for a short course being run at Belfast Bible College by Desi Maxwell (Xplorations) titled 'Exploring the Jewish World'. The 2 week course of mornings finished on Friday by which stage i was mentally exhausted! I haven't really engaged in any third level study since i finished my MA in 2004 so my brain was feeling the pain of exercise. The course, was fascinating and yet very hard to put into a succinct blog what i learnt! Much of the content was looking at the bigger picture of the Hebraic way of thinking, contrasted with the Greek mindset that our Western society is completely influenced by. When you come to look at the Scriptures, both Old and New Testament it is enriching and truthful to be able to apply a Hebraic lens and in some way enter the mindset of the writer and the narrative.

I would certainly recommend this course to anyone and Desi Maxwell is a fantastic teacher with an energy and enthusiasm for Hebraic thought that is infectious. Have a look at his Xplorations website to discover other upcoming study opportunities!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

37inches of TV...

I had been looking to buy a new TV since Christmas and had been looking around at lots of good deals out there but could never really pluck up the courage to just go and buy one! I had spotted one at a good price in a local electrical retailer and had been in to look at it on 3 separate occasions this week! They only had one left, so this morning i just decided to put it off no longer and if it was still in the shop i would buy it - it was and i did! Im delighted with the results and reckon it will definitely help with New Year's Resolution number 12 although probably not with number 14!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Apathetic new year...

I hardly slept a wink last night as i start back to work today after the Christmas break. It's a nervousness that always comes over me before resuming work after a significant break. Ive done a fairly good job of not thinking about work at all for the last 2 weeks and now i have to re-engage into work mode and panic sets in as i think of the many things that need to get done!

I hadn't set any New Year's Resolutions as i was somewhat apathetic about the whole thing but as i lay awake last night i resolved to do a variety of things in 2009. Here goes:
  1. I want to know Jesus better, to love him more and to be changed as a result this year.
  2. I want to read the Bible more and establish a more regular discipline. As such, i was recommended a new book to aid me on this journey called 'Search the Scriptures'.
  3. I want to re-develop my regular discipline of prayer and reflection on a Wednesday morning. This had lapsed over the last term and i missed it.
  4. I want to feel fitter and stronger and so will continue to go to the gym and spinning.
  5. I want to read more and will aim for 15 books this year.
  6. I want to say 'yes' more often. Inspired by Danny Wallace and Jim Carey!
  7. I want to be able to pass myself at golf! I got a set of clubs and a lesson for Christmas so would like to improve so i don't embarrass myself!
  8. I would like to have a girlfriend next Christmas & New Year!
  9. I would like to blog more (as i have been apathetic about this too) and will aim for 50 blogs this year!
  10. I would like to carve up some powder in the French Alps with my snowboard.
  11. I want to get out walking more in The Mournes.
  12. I want to start watching the West Wing as i think i will like it.
  13. I want to go at least 3 music gigs this year!
  14. I would like to not waste as much time doing stupid things like watching TV and invest time in these resolutions instead!
  15. I would like to establish a pattern of getting up earlier and going to bed earlier so that i don't feel tired as much!
  16. I want to develop a small peer group around me that meet on a regular basis for intentional encouragement, prayer and accountability.
  17. To re-establish a pattern of journaling in my spiritual life.
So there you have it! Plenty for me to work on in 2009! Have a great day!