Friday, 15 December 2017

Christmas Letter from the Blacks 2017

Another Year over and this one was full of special Dates.

Fred & I were sick over Christmas and the New Year so a lot of January was taken up recovering from that long drawn out flu.

We did manage to enjoy babysitting Matthew each week too.

At the start of the month I had another appointment at the Fracture Clinic (first one had been last October) where they said the bone in my foot was healed but I could expect to have pain for up to a year after the break.

Fred & I decided a holiday in warm weather would be good for us after that rotten flu so off we went to Gran Canaria for 9 days.

Jonathan spent 2 weeks in New Zealand with his best friend from Primary School who is a doctor there.
This was the big month for Fred as he had his 60th birthday and was so glad he had already retired early.  We sort of counted our holiday in February as his birthday present.

Also this month saw our first wedding this year - a friend from church.

With Matthew well on his feet and loving to play hide and seek and run around everywhere we thought we would have a little Easter Egg Hunt with him when he would be at our house.  Unfortunately it rained but I just hid all the eggs in different rooms and he looked so happy each time he found one.

Missed it

But then he got it

Fred had wanted to go to a Church Conference in the US at the end of the month and asked me if I wanted to go too.  I didn't want to go to the Conference but was happy to go along for the holiday and sit by the pool in Orlando, Florida.

While we knew we would be in America it seemed sensible to go for 2 weeks instead of just one and take time to go to Kentucky & Ohio (2 states I had never visited before) to see the "Ark Encounter" and the "Creation Museum" and also the city of Cincinnati which has at least 5 bridges linking the 2 states.

At the Full-size Replica of Noah's Ark

I started off the month at the Fracture Clinic again and this time they agreed with me that the pain was not coming from the break at all because of the position of it and they decided I would have to have an MRI Scan done.  (Still waiting to even receive an appointment date for that!)

Then there was a bit of a reunion of Fred's side of the family as we went to our niece's wedding in St. Johnson and Ballymena.

This was the month our church alterations were completed and that had meant some very busy months for Fred previously.

Later in the month I had a reunion of some of us girls!!! who had studied at Queens together - we are now managing to make this twice a year due to early retirements.

We had a weekend in Londonderry to go celebrate my sister's 70th birthday and make her laugh during a family photo shoot her kids had arranged for her.

Another birthday this month, this time the big one for me.  Jonathan came over from Leeds so along with Daniel & Suzie and Matthew we all had a nice time together.  I'm sort of counting the trip to Kentucky as my present.

Of course this was a very special month for us all because our granddaughter Ruby Ellen Joy was born on 4th July - she was late in coming but managed to make it here on Fred's mother's birthday and then it was nice that she had my mother's name as her second name.  Daniel and Suzie were so delighted with a quick birth and Matthew was so excited to have a baby sister.

Ruby just a few hours old with a very happy big brother

We went to Evensong at St. Anne's Cathedral a couple of days later to meet up with a Canadian who had worked with Fred a few years ago.  He and his wife were over on a choir trip around the UK singing in several cathedrals.

We love taking Matthew out to parks and lakes and other events like a Teddy Bear's Picnic in the Open Ark Farm which was one of the places we went to this month.

Then Linda arrived from South Korea.
She would be here for a whole month!!

So that meant this month involved a lot of shopping with Linda because it is not so easy for her to get clothes in South Korea  -  they just don't make them for European figures.
Also a lot of eating and chatting and planning - those who know Linda will definitely understand that.

At the end of the month we had a family holiday - all 9 of us.
We went to Cornwall to a large house for a week and Stephen flew over from South Korea to make the family complete.  

A Selfie at Lands End

At the Minack Theatre

I have to admit the real stars of the show were not the couple who were there to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary but the two children who everybody wanted to play with and cuddle.

A Beautiful Day at St. Michael's Mount

Daniel and Suzie moved house from East Belfast to Carnmoney and needed some help, any excuse to just hang around with Ruby and Matthew is ok with us.

Then Daniel's birthday and Jonathan's birthday which meant Jonathan came over to visit again.

Another Wedding, this time my nephew with Daniel as best man - I think he did a good job of getting back at Glen for the best man speech he made at Daniel's wedding.

Then a lot of shopping for Videoing Equipment because .......

....... we now had a month centred a lot around producing videos of Jonathan for You Tube.  
Fred has enjoyed working out what was needed and where and how to set up cameras, backgrounds and lights, followed by the editing.  

Christmas and winter jumpers featured in one of these shoots so that's a hint that something will be coming this Christmas but the first Series of 5 Jonathan did is already on You Tube and his blog.

Linda and Stephen are coming to NI for Christmas so we will all be together (the 9 of us) on Christmas Day for the first time ever and it is unusual for this to be managed with part of your family so far away in South Korea.

Another first is that we are all going to go to the Belfast Blacks that day too - I am so looking forward to that.

During the time in Cornwall we had a family photo shoot which was really needed as the family has grown quickly in the last few years.  

It was a gift from the kids for our wedding Anniversary and this is 
my favourite picture of the lot.

The two Proud Grandparents

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Acts Chapter 21 & 22 - Paul's Defense

We ended our last post on Acts with the uplifting fact that when Paul arrived in Jerusalem Acts chapter 21 The Journey to Jerusalem and met with the Apostle James there and with others they all glorified God.

We were happy enough with that then but now let's consider verses 19 - 20 to see why they did this.

19 When he had greeted them, he told in detail those things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law;

Paul gave them details of the work of God in the lives of many Gentiles who had heard the Gospel through him.
The Apostles were very happy to hear about this first hand even though they may have heard some parts of the full story before.

Now Paul did not only take the Gospel message to the Gentiles but also to the Jews and not all of them had rejected his message.  These Jews would have experienced his teaching in other matters too and known what his behaviour was like when in their areas.

But there were also other Jews in and around Jerusalem who had been hearing more talk about Paul and his views on circumcision with regards to the Gentile converts and they felt that Paul was not as intent on keeping the law as a good Jew should be.

Continuing on in verses 21 - 25  we see that the Apostles do not want any misunderstandings or ill feeling about Paul so they ask him in verse 24 to go to the Temple and make it obvious that he is observing the Jewish law.

that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the law.

You see when rumours start going round and people hear certain things it is very hard for them to unhear those things.  The best thing is for them to talk to the people involved or be able to witness definite acts to find out exactly what they say or what they have done.

verses 26 - 36

But even though Paul is seen by many to be upholding Jewish Law there are others who have heard the rumours and do not know the full facts but are ready to jump in there and speak out against Paul in fact so much so that instead of talking to him and clearing up misunderstandings they end up inciting the people which leads to others taking action without full knowledge as well.  In fact verse 30 tells us that the whole city was affected by there talk.

30 And all the city was disturbed; and the people ran together, seized Paul, and dragged him out of the temple; and immediately the doors were shut.

What did they propose to do to Paul, well verse 31 tells us they wanted to kill him.

Imagine because some people say something it can have such an effect as to lead to planning a death.

Paul was not killed but he was in the process of being beaten when he was rescued by the commander of the garrison who took him away bound because he could not find out there for himself who Paul was and what he had done.  It is clear in verses 33 - 36 that the people again were not willing to be quiet and let Paul be heard by the commander.

33 Then the commander came near and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and he asked who he was and what he had done. 34 And some among the multitude cried one thing and some another.
So when he could not ascertain the truth because of the tumult, he commanded him to be taken into the barracks. 35 When he reached the stairs, he had to be carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the mob. 36 For the multitude of the people followed after, crying out, “Away with him!”

What was going to happen?
Was the commander going to find out what had happened or was he even really interested in the truth?

verses 37 - 40

It becomes clear here that the commander did not know who Paul was or what nationality he was, even thinking he might be an Egyptian who had been causing trouble previously.

But when Paul was able to speak to him and explain he was a Jewish citizen the commander allowed him to speak to the people.

This commander did not know what he was allowing because we all know from the the previous experiences in this book of Acts that none of the Apostles would not take advantage of relating the Gospel when they have a crowd to hear them.

And that is exactly what happens in

Acts Chapter 22 verses 1 - 21

Paul's defense is his life story.

Paul speaks to the crowd in Hebrew and relates the story of his conversion because he knows just what Stephen knew in Acts Chapter 7 that The Gospel is the Answer.

He shares some of his history to the people including his heritage as a Jew, his meeting with Jesus on the Road to Damascus in chapter 9 and of his meeting with Ananias also in chapter 9 

verses 22 - 30

Then when he mentions about being sent by God to witness to the Gentiles the crowd again turn against him in anger. 

What will help him in this situation?

First Paul had used the fact that he was a Jew to gain the attention of the commander to be allowed to speak to the people in Jerusalem but now he uses the fact that he is also a Roman Citizen so that the commander will know that he needs to keep Paul safe especially when Paul is a Roman citizen from birth and not one who has bought the privilege as the commander had.

So will Paul have to speak to the Roman authorities next?

Monday, 4 December 2017

Christmas Cards - Coffee & Conversation

What do you think about Christmas Cards?



Well I love Christmas Cards, but I hate having to find them because every year it seems that there are fewer to pick from.

You are probably amazed because you know that so many shops will stock them and of course so many places online too.

However there just is not a good choice anymore.

I am not a great shopper - I am better online than physically traipsing through the stores but even online I do not enjoy looking for Christmas Cards.

You see I am very particular about the Christmas Cards I send.

I want my cards to express the true meaning of Christmas and spread the Gospel.

I want the cards I send to be a blessing to people and not bore them so they have to look attractive as well as have a true Christmas message.

This is the card I am sending this year.

I do not want ones which say

  • Happy Holidays
  • Season's Greetings
  • Merry Xmas
  • Really long soppy rhymes

I also do not want ones which show pictures of

  • Cottages in the snow
  • Wild Landscapes
  • People Skating
  • Untrue Nativity Scenes

At one stage I thought I should just make my own cards like I did some birthday and anniversary cards but there are just so many Christmas cards to be ready for the one time that I knew I could not keep that up, so I didn't even start  -  it would have ended up a chore for me.

So what do I like?

Ones that turn our attention in some way towards the true reason for Christmas.

Click   Here    Here  &  Here  to see a few of my favourite Christmas Cards from the last few years

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Advent Calendar - Review Through the Eyes of a Child

Do you buy an Advent Calendar each year?

I don't.

In fact I don't think I've ever bought one either for myself or for our children when they were growing up.

Am I a terrible mum?

But this year I actually considered it.

Well we have a little grandson now and I like chocolate and so does he so I did think about maybe getting one for him but as at other times I thought about it and then didn't do anything about it.

Then one day in the post I received a free Advent calendar full of chocolate.

It was a complimentary calendar for me because I have in the past bought the Easter Eggs for the children in the Sunday School at our Church from this company  Meaningful Chocolate. 

I even asked them for a free egg to do a review of it on my blog a couple of years ago and my husband and son scoffed it on me leaving only one small piece for me and you can see the proof of it at The Real Easter Egg - You've Got to Try One!

Well this time our grandson Matthew was with us for a sleep over on the 1st and 2nd of December so he had the privilege of looking for the numbers 1 and 2 on those two days and claiming the chocolates within.

So How do you open an Advent calendar with a 2 year old?

Well you don't! 

He grabs it, shouts Chocolate and tears it open.

He pulled hard on the tab for the first day and it tore on over across the next two sections which were not even the ones numbered 2 and 3.

Then he tried to tear up and down as well while we laughed and laughed and explained that he was only to open one section and have one chocolate each time.

Still wondering however how he knew that it was going to be chocolate inside.

Matthew is very fond of chocolate even though he doesn't get a lot of it.

No really, I am a very good grandmother, granny, nanny whatever he wants to call me and I do not give him a lot of chocolate.

Along with the Calendar full of chocolate there is a booklet telling the Christmas Story over the 24 days up to Christmas.

Now although Matthew is only 2 he loves books and pictures and having stories read to him or the latest now is stories told to him about ourselves.

He took some time (after eating his ONE PIECE of chocolate) to sit on the floor and look at some of the pages of the booklet.

And that was good considering his cars, buses, taxis and trains are very important to him and they sat stationary for a while until he turned the booklet over and said chocolate again.

We did not give in but explained he could have a piece the next day before he went back home.

Each page of the booklet has a picture and some text for one of the 24 days up to Christmas and you can see some of them below.

There are several Advent Challenges which are puzzles & activities for the children to work at.

Matthew clearly enjoyed the chocolate.

We will have to see what it is like when we open some days now when he will not be with us.

I liked the look of the booklet and was glad it was not just something to read but was also interactive for the kids.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Acts Chapter 21 - The Journey to Jerusalem

Sometimes we just have to stop somewhere and this happened to Paul and his companions at the start of chapter 21 even though as we saw in chapter 20  Paul's Goal  he was set to get to Jerusalem quickly.

They had to stop at Tyre because the ship they were sailing on had to stop there.

When we had sighted Cyprus, we passed it on the left, sailed to Syria, and landed at Tyre; for there the ship was to unload her cargo. 

Similar to other times they found people to fellowship with and through prophetic ministry Paul was advised not to go to Jerusalem.

And finding disciples, we stayed there seven days. They told Paul through the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem. 

Did this change Paul's mind?

No, at the end of those 7 days in Tyre they headed off once more by ship.

Some time later verse 8 tells us they had arrived at Caesarea

 and entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. 

The Philip here is one of the Wise & Respected Men we talked about in Acts Chapter 6.  This differenciates the Philip here from Philip who was one of the twelve disciples with Jesus and later referred to as the Apostles.

This is also the Philip from Acts Chapter 8 Good Out of Evil who met the Ethiopian and explained about Jesus from the Old Testament, going on to baptize him in water right where they were.

Then there is something new that we are told about Philip is in verse 9

Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied. 

What do we learn from this short statement?

1.  He had 4 daughters.
2.  The 4 daughters mentioned were not married so still at home under his influence.
3.  These 4 daughters were used by the Holy Spirit in prophecy.

What do we not learn from this short statement?

1.  The number of sons he had.
2.  The number of daughters he had who were married.
3.  The number of daughters he had who were not used in prophecy.
4.  That these 4 daughters were recognised as prophets in the church.

We must always be careful not to read something into scripture that is not there.

I mentioned previously in A Godly Couple  Chapter 18  how some people like to say the wife was the leader of the this couple and also headed up one of the churches but it never actually says this in the Bible and here again there are people who say that because of this little verse about Philip's 4 daughters we have proof that women were recognised as prophets in the early church.

However we do have proof that Agabus who now arrives to Philip's home is a prophet in the church because verse 10  specifically states it.

There is something more important that happened while they were with Philip as we read in verses 10 & 11

10 And as we stayed many days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 When he had come to us, he took Paul’s belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’”

Would this change Paul's mind from Jerusalem?

No even though everyone there tried to talk him out of going his reply was clear in verse 13

13 Then Paul answered, “What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

What a change in the determination of this man who we first met in chapters 7 & 8  when he wanted to persecute the believers and now when he is ready and willingly to be persecuted himself for being a believer.

The change in the determined mind of Paul.

So they got ready and went off to Jerusalem.

17 And when we had come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. 18 On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. 19 When he had greeted them, he told in detail those things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord.

Yes Paul has made it to Jerusalem.