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Listing January - 2008
‘There will always be a lot of ‘a la carte’ Christianity as long as human beings are human.’ ~Liam Hickey

The famous parable of the sower reminds us that the seed was thrown everywhere and anywhere. It was thrown in hope that it might take root and then grow. Some of it did great, some did ok and some of the seed failed miserably. The seed stands for God’s love and how well it’s received depends entirely on the openness of people. We might think that God wants us all to be 100% open and ready. But this is not God’s only way of doing things. We live in a world today where choices are vast and limitless. There is so much to choose from in terms of groceries, clothes, books, music and so on. It should come as no surprise that people will also choose when it comes to faith matters. God’s generosity in throwing the seed will never stop. My openness is entirely up to me but to be open makes for great beginnings.
‘God does not die when we cease to believe in a personal deity. We die on the day when our lives cease to be illuminated by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder, the source of which is beyond all reason.’ ~Dag Hammarskjöld

Life can best be described as challenging, on occasions cruel and rarely easy. From our own experience we know it is often unpredictable, exciting and also at times overwhelming. It would take a person of remarkable strength and zeal to journey through life on their own. We need support, love and encouragement on our journey. It’s a need that must be met every day and not on the odd occasion here and there. Some of us are lucky to have this need met, others not so. The one common link we all have is our need of God. God isn’t the magician who will solve our problems or make life easier. Having God on our side gives us deeper roots in life. These deeper roots give us that positive edge in everything we do each day.
Just to explain to our readers in other countries. In Ireland our main TV station (RTE) takes time out at 6pm for the Angelus. For one minute it shows people from all walks of life pausing for the briefest of moments in a quiet moment of prayer. In recent times there was concern it might be scrapped in case it would offend people from other religious faiths. Our thought for today is about the Angelus as a prayer.

‘The Angelus is safe in my hands. There is no public or secret agenda to scrap it. For people of faith it is a moment of grace and for everyone else it is a moment of peace.’ ~Roger Childs

RTE’s new editor of religious programming has revealed interesting insights into the Angelus as a prayer. It is the most watched programme on RTE even though it lasts only a minute. People of other faiths including Muslims are in favour of the Angelus. There would be very few who could argue that a little time out to reflect is wrong. The Angelus may only be a minute but what a precious minute. Can I use 6pm as a moment of prayer? Can I use it to look back on my day and give thanks for one good thing that happened? Can I use it to ask God for something or for guidance? You’d be surprised how productive one minute can be. Thank God the Angelus is around to give us that chance.
‘Paradox is everywhere: Sometimes the things you think will make you happy end up saddening you and sometimes the very thing that breaks your heart is also the thing that opens it to warmth and gratitude.’ ~Ronald Ronheiser

Life can never be described as predictable and boring. So much can happen in a week, a day, even in a few minutes. There are so many twists and turns in life. If we are happy with our lot and with what we’re doing then we should be grateful. It too can change. Taking for granted what we have, sets up to loose it when we least expect. It is comforting to know that sadness too has a turning point. Sadness is not always something negative or to be avoided. We know that God is very much in touch with our sadness and joy. All of scripture reminds us that sadness does have a turning point. Sometimes we have to wait patiently to know when the tide has turned.
‘Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.’ ~Christopher Reeve

A boy was in the burn unit of a hospital for many weeks making little if any progress. His teacher was asked to visit him and tutor the boy with some schoolwork while he was in hospital. As she tried to tutor him it was obvious the boy was in a lot of discomfort. The teacher felt ashamed of putting him through such a senseless exercise. The next day the nurse asked her: “What did you do to that boy? His entire attitude has changed. It’s as though he has decided to live.” A few weeks later the boy explained that he had given up hope until his teacher arrived. “They wouldn’t send my teacher to work on nouns and verbs with a dying boy, would they?” We too journey into people’s lives and into places and events that on the surface seem to have no meaning or purpose to us. Yet God gently works through us, creating many surprises and in ways we least expect.
‘Anyone who does not know God, even if he/she entertains all kinds of hope is ultimately without hope, without the great hope that sustains the whole of life.’ ~Pope Benedict

This piece of wisdom offers plenty food for thought. It’s not something that was made up in the heat of the moment but was given great reflection and thought. We often search for hope in so many places and often perhaps in the wrong place. Many think that hope can be bought but money also has its limits. Can money buy real and lasting friendships? Can it buy love? Can it buy the freedom that simplicity brings? Can it buy laughter, honesty, genuineness and the freedom to be the best that God has created us to be? God is indeed the one who can bring us all these and so much more besides. With God we can have so much and without we simply have so little.
‘Keep your head and your heart in the right direction and you’ll never have to worry about your feet.’ ~Author Unknown

The tractor and machinery show took place at the Green Glens complex in Millstreet during the past few days. There were lots of impressive tractors including the New Holland. All of these have been designed for strength and to do a job quicker and easier. But no matter how small or large these tractors might be they still need a human hand to guide and drive them. The same goes with us as well. No matter what our story, we also need someone to guide and direct us in life. We can welcome God into our lives to guide, direct and take us to the place where God wants us to be.
A prayer starter today might be: Lord I ask your help in guiding me through each day. Lead me in the right direction taking it one step at a time. Amen.
‘There is no short cut to making a good painting. Time is the act of looking closely at something, close enough to really see, to preserve the memory and how it made you feel.’ ~Eithne Jordan

A good painting, photo, song, poem or book will all capture something. They recall and capture a moment or a collection of moments. They lead us in close enough to really see what needs to be seen. Our lives are also similar. There are no short cuts and nothing is easy. But our story and our collection of moments do add up to something special. Like an artist God helps us to put our life painting together. The big difference is that God always chooses the positive and the good. God works with our darker colours and mixes them into something vibrant and colourful. This is what forgiveness is all about. It is liberating and energising. Perhaps forgiveness isn’t a popular word today. But the end results are so beneficial, healthy and positive. Can I be open to God’s forgiveness in my life?
‘There must be something strangely sacred in salt. It is in our tears and in the sea.’ ~Kahlil Gibran

Salt is something we can’t do without. It is involved in regulating the water content and balance of our body. Too little of it and we’re in trouble and too much also puts us in trouble. It’s all about finding the right balance. There are 35 references to salt in our scriptures. It’s no surprise that Jesus used it in his teaching. To use something that was so familiar to people was a great starting point. He said we are the salt of the earth. In other words we are crucially important, valued and loved. The main purpose of salt is not just to add taste to food but to bring balance to our bodies. So it is with us. Finding the right balance in all we do is a life long challenge. Many search and long for this balance. Putting our trust and faith in a loving God gives us a great foundation to find and build this balance.
‘The question when confronted with any form of darkness is, will we stay the course or run, or seek a quick fix?’ ~Martin Tierney

Yesterday was described as Blue Monday (Jan 21st). Apparently this day is the most depressing day of the year. Bad weather, a feeling of monotony after the Christmas, lots of bills to pay and broken New Years resolutions all add up to feeling miserable. The challenge of course is to focus in on the positives and the good news around us. Part of the Gospel challenge is to also face the darkness that we meet. There are some easy escape routes like alcohol, drugs and other addictions. These only delay the pain. When we realize that fragility, helplessness, sadness, and being lost are a part of life, we can cope so much better with any difficult day. Maybe today is our difficult day and the same might go for tomorrow. But facing any darkness first rather than running away from it, gives us the key to moving on to a much better day.
‘Life is a process of starting over again. Every day marks moments for new beginnings and hopes. The comfort of our faith is that it allows one to let go of disappointments and missed opportunities. It teaches us that no moment is wasted and that if we think we have failed in our promise, the seeds of opportunity for growth and fulfilment never fail.’ ~Thomas Keating

We need to hear more and more that it’s ok to let go of disappointments and missed opportunities. The high rate of suicide today especially in young people would link it with an inability to cope with some crisis in life. There is a huge pressure to perform, be successful, be cool and to be far more than we can be. There is an onus on all of us to nurture every possibility of a new beginning especially with young people. Failure and disappointments are part and parcel of life. We can use them as stepping stones and as moments of growth. We ask God today to help us seize such moments of growth.
'Welcome the stranger, for oft Christ comes in the stranger's guise.' Old Irish Saying

Today Jan 20th has been given the title 'Migrant Sunday'. We remember today all who have left their homelands in search of employment, a new beginning, perhaps safety. The aim of any community or parish is to make it a place of welcome for people of any nationality. The challenge each day is to reach out a hand of welcome to those who have come to live among us. We ask God to bless all who live in our community and in particular those who have come to live with us from outside.
A traveller hired a donkey to take him to the next town. He agreed a fee with the owner of the donkey. “There is just one drawback,” explained the owner of the donkey. “My donkey won’t walk very far unless I poke him with a stick now and again. You ride on its back. I don’t mind walking behind you.” It was a hot day but they still made good progress. In the middle of the day with the sun at its hottest, they stopped for a rest. “I shall sit in the shade of the donkey,” said the traveller. “Oh no you won’t” snapped the owner, “That is where I am going to rest. It’s the only shade around for miles.” “I’ve hired the donkey, so I should sit in the shade” argued the traveller. “Not at all” shouted the owner. “You hired the donkey, not its shadow. That belongs to me.” The owner was so angry that he gave the traveller a push. In a moment both were fighting furiously. In the meantime the donkey grew bored and trotted off taking its shadow with her.
Moral of the story: Most arguments are petty and useless.
‘We buy junk and sell antiques!’ ~Sign outside a country shop

Where would we be without a sense of humour. Antiques are a thriving business. What we might see as junk is a beautiful and priceless antique to someone else. Every one of us has junk we could throw out or even recycle! Getting rid of what’s old and stale has always been an important part of any spiritual journey. Such junk could be described as hurts, grudges, anger, hatred, jealousy, cynicism, mistakes made, to mention only a few. All of this junk can never become an antique. They are corrosive over time and are simply no use to anyone. God is always gently encouraging us to get rid of such junk. In its place we welcome God’s invitation to new beginnings and possibilities no matter how small.
‘Knock the "t" off the "can't." ~Samuel Johnson

When we take our eye off what needs to get done or what's important in life, the chances are high that we are missing out on a lot. It is good to give that 100% into what needs getting done. This does not mean giving 100% of our time, 7 days a week. No one could manage that! What it does mean, is that when we do something, no matter how small, it's best to give it our all. In our Gospels, Jesus constantly encouraged people to do their best, to keep focussed and especially on the really important things in life. When we find ourselves saying ‘I can’t’, we pray for the encouragement to say ‘I can’.
‘Where there is no love, put love and you will find love.’ ~St. John Of The Cross

This lovely quote can be inverted by saying: ‘Where there is no hope, put hope and you will find hope.’ A religion teacher in a secondary school wrote the words ‘Faith’, ‘Hope’ and ‘Love’ on a blackboard and asked his students which one they felt was most important. Perhaps not surprisingly, faith came in a weak third. What was surprising was that love didn’t fare much better and hope won by a landslide. In the world we live in today there is an air of hopelessness that doesn’t seem to go away. Society today is very much problem focussed. Good news gets squeezed out. Bad news is attractive and can at times be more interesting. No wonder hope can also get squeezed out. We need it, we must nurture it, encourage it and most importantly live it.
Hannah replied: “I am a woman in great trouble. I was pouring out my soul before the Lord. All this time I have been speaking from the depth of my grief and resentment.” ~From the first book of Samuel 9:15-16

Hannah’s story in the Old Testament is touching and moving. For years she was childless and it was a source of great anxiety for her. Her story resonates with childless couples who long for a baby but for different reasons cannot have one. Such stories are heartbreaking. Hannah is presented as a woman of faith and courage. Despite her heartbreak at being childless, she never loses hope and never loses trust in God. Her story has a message for us too. Sometimes we want to throw the towel in even to the point of wondering whether we should bother with God any more. Hannah despite all her troubles stuck it out. No matter how bad things might be, it would be a tragedy to lose heart in our loving God.
‘A great deal of what we see depends on what we’re looking for.’ ~Author Unknown

If we all experienced the same thing each day, our lives would be very boring. Everyone’s experience is just so different each day and of course it all depends on what we’re looking for. If our expectations are high and unrealistic the chances are we’re going to be disappointed. If our demands of other people are too high then we are sure to be disappointed. In our gospels Jesus says to look for small things first. He spoke about a tiny little mustard seed growing into the biggest tree of them all. When we’re looking for little and small we will find plenty. They all do add up to something substantial. Our baptism wasn't just a once off event. It's effects last a lifetime. It brings the best out in us and allows us to become the person God created us to be. Today I can look for something good in my life. It may be small, it may seem insignificant but within the bigger picture it is the most precious of all.
‘Though the human body is born complete in one moment, the human heart is never completely born. It is being birthed in every experience of your life. Everything that happens to you has the potential to deepen you.’ ~John O’Donoghue

It was with sadness to hear about the death of John O’Donoghue last weekend. He was a poet, philosopher and popular writer on Celtic spirituality. His books such as ‘Anam Cara’ and ‘Divine Beauty’ have inspired so many. John’s writings place great emphasis on God’s love for us. Love is absolutely vital for human life. Love alone can awaken what is divine within us. He wrote the following beautiful line: ‘You can suffer form a desperate hunger to be loved. You can search long years in lonely places, far outside yourself. Yet the whole time, this love is but a few inches away from you. It is at the edge of your soul but you have been blind to its presence.’ Ar dheis De go raibh a anam.
‘For one path alone is given to each person. And we must journey down it in the best way that we can. And whether we win or whether we lose, largely depends on the path that we choose.’ ~Grace Easely

All floodwaters choose one path and that one path is the easiest route for the water to flow. A river bank will do its job for most of the time but sometimes it’s just not strong or big enough to hold the water. It seems that in Mallow and Fermoy there was little anyone could do to stop the rising water spilling over. Our lives can be compared to a river as well. We depend and need the banks of a river to guide and direct us. But sometimes we take the path that we think is the easiest route. But often it’s far from easy, much longer and full of pitfalls and the unknown. Like the banks of a river, we need support and guidance on what ever path we follow in life. We pray to God for guidance and perseverance on that pathway, even when there are seemingly easier routes and options on either side of us.
‘Love is a symbol of eternity. It wipes out all sense of time, destroying all memory of a beginning and all fear of an end. ~Author Unknown

There is a story told of a shepherd who once had a lamb that strayed too close to a cliff edge and fell several feet on to a ledge below. With the help of some other farmers they lowered the shepherd by a rope to retrieve the little lamb. However the nearer the shepherd approached, the more distressed the lamb became. There was a danger that the young lamb might fall off the ledge. So they came up with another plan. They tied the lamb’s mother with a net of ropes and lowered her down instead. Reassured the lamb calmed straight away. The shepherd was able to scramble down, lift the lamb to safety and then its mother. Like the mother sheep, God always reassures and calms us, whatever our plight, storm or predicament.
‘We should not forget that our faith is not something static but that it is always growing and developing. Perhaps not like a physical body at a static pace but nevertheless it does so profoundly and at significant moments in our lives.’ ~John Looby

We might say that these profound and significant moments are rare and hardly worth the wait. We think of moments like confirmation, a wedding, a baptism and other similar unique occasions. We might not put the following into such special occasions like pain, disappointments, grief, hurts, depression and even betrayal. But even during these moments God is with us and never abandons us. Other moments may not make news headlines but to us they are important. These moments are life giving and precious. Here too God is present and rejoices with us in the moment. All these moments from happy to sad all add up to being profound and significant. They nurture our faith and are a reminder of how close God is to us at all times.
‘You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage, pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically, to say no to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside. ~Stephen Covey

Our journey through this month of January gives us the ideal opportunity to set out our priorities for the coming weeks and year. We all know we are pulled in different directions. Many well intentioned people either want our money, our time, the fruits of our gifts and talents and so much more. In short we can’t give everything. Our gift to ourselves and to others is to sometimes be firm and say NO. To say ‘no’ certainly requires courage. It reflects maturity, responsibility and a sense of balance. A prayer starter today might be: “Lord, help to prioritise what’s important in my life at the moment. Sometimes I need to say no to what’s distracting and to what is not productive in my life. Help me to choose wisely. Amen”
‘It is with the smallest brushes that the artist paints the most exquisitely beautiful pictures’ ~Andre Bessette

We all have our own favourite painting hanging up at home. We may have got it as a gift but the chances are high that you bought it and you did so because it caught your eye and imagination. Lots of brushes are used to create each painting but it’s the smallest ones that bring out the finer details. The same goes with all we do in life. Big sweeping changes and big sweeping happenings in life are rare. It might be tempting to try something big at the start of a new year. But God always calls us to work with the smallest of brushes. Even if we don’t do it, God most certainly does. We are the canvas, God is the artist. But for the artist to work, the canvas must be open, welcome and receptive. It’s with all the small bits and pieces put together that God creates something special. That something special is you.
‘Then opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.’ Matthew 2:11

You’d have to feel sorry for the wise men. Just when most people are taking down Christmas trees and decorations, the wise men arrive when everyone else is finishing up. But the feast of the Epiphany, which we celebrate today, is an important one. Just like the wise men we are also searching for meaning and purpose to life. We are looking for answers to our deepest questions. The journey of the wise men reminds us that those who are searching for something deeper will find God in their lives. God is waiting to be discovered in the places and people that we least expect God to be. We pray today for guidance and direction in our own daily journey. Like the wise men we also pray for strength and courage on our journey especially when it’s easier to quit.

Our Thought For Today is taken from my book 'A Year In Reflection'
‘The feast of the Epiphany is about people who trust their inner voice. They make risky journeys and there is no journey without risk.’ ~Anne Thurston

Tomorrow (Jan 6th) is the feast of the Epiphany. From an early age we have known them to be the three wise men. We even know their names as Caspar, Balthazar and Melchior. But scripture and especially Matthews gospel tells us that ‘some wise men came from the east.’ The mention of gold, frankincense and myrrh offered as gifts, led the Christian imagination down through the years to settle on three as the number of the Magi. But it’s not about numbers. Importantly they travelled together, they were willing to embark on a risky journey and knew it must have been worthwhile. Outwardly they fell to their knees, inwardly they did him homage, practically they gave him the best they had. They went home a different way and on a different journey. We too are invited on new and different journeys in our spiritual lives but never on our own.
‘The effect of having other interests beyond those that are domestic works well. The more one does, sees, feels and the more one is able to do the better. The end result is a more genuine appreciation of fundamental things like home, love and understanding companionship. ~Amelia Earhart.

‘January Blues’ or the ‘January Wall’ are expressions sometimes used during these early days of January. Trying to get motivated and energetic during these days is a task that many find difficult. The task for us is to get out of such a rut and begin to make something happen for us. It is about widening the horizon in terms of things to do. It’s about taking up some new interest, doing something we have put off for a while, getting out for a walk and enjoying the beauty of nature that God has given to us in abundance. We ask God to bring balance into our lives in all we do, as we begin our journey through 2008.
‘Dedication is being able to see something through without taking short cuts and being able to pick yourself up after what appears to be a disaster.’ ~Ernest Dillon

We all know how fragile a new year’s resolution can be. The resolution usually isn’t at fault but it’s impossible to keep up the enthusiasm that’s needed to carry the resolution through over a period of time. One resolution worth looking at is to dedicate my time and effort to some task that is achievable, worthwhile and positive in my life. The world we live in today programmes us into taking short cuts and getting everything done instantly if possible. But all that’s achievable and worthwhile needs time and sometimes lots of time. The best new year resolution we can try is to give ourselves quality time, do something within our reach and do it well. Why not ask God to help you as well to achieve what you want. You won’t be disappointed.
‘There is a regrettable tendency in our culture to weigh Christmas with so much significance that it inevitably totters over and fails us or we fail it.’ ~Anne Thurston

Today marks an attempt to return to some normality after Christmas. Many workplaces re-open today while our schools will wait until next week. It is fair to say that Christmas was yet again built up with huge expectations. These were so big that very few could meet or match them. If you feel Christmas let you down or has left you disappointed you are not on your own. Was there any moment that was special or important to you this Christmas? If you have such a moment be thankful and grateful. Christmas comes and goes but its message takes on a new meaning as we begin a new year. God continues to gently journey with us in ways we least expect and in ways we don’t always understand. Such a gentle presence is not seasonal, occasional or by chance. It will be a part of every day and every moment of 2008.
‘We spend the early days of January walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives…not looking for flaws but for potential.’ ~Ellen Goodman
New years resolutions all evolve around correcting what’s negative. It’s little wonder that they don’t last. Of course it’s important to check in on what needs improving but so often we concentrate only on the negative. As we begin this New Year why not check in on all that’s good and positive in my life. This is a great starting point. We can use all that’s good and positive as areas of growth and potential. When this happens the negative begins to be squeezed out. The message of the gospels reminds us that it won’t all happen today, but most certainly will over time.

(P.S As we journey through Christmas/New Year its time to relax and take it easy. Our thoughts and pictures from here to Jan 2nd will be taken from my book 'A Year In reflection' which is a collection of the best of 365 thoughts and photographs from this website. From Jan 2nd everything will be back to new photos and thoughts. Thanks....James


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