Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Christmas Letter from the Blacks 2015 - A dose of Encouragement 103




2015 has been one of those years that has gone so quickly,
 I felt like I never got caught up with myself.



The biggest event in our family this year was the birth of our first grandchild Matthew 
born to Daniel and Suzie 
on Monday 2nd November.  





Jonathan has continued to Pastor the church in Leeds while finishing off his Phd - well just the very last bit to go now.  He has also been around various churches teaching on different aspects of Theology
He has been over to visit us a few times this year but we believe we were not the real attraction for the last two visits!





Daniel & Suzie had a very busy year with Suzie being pregnant and little Matthew being born in November.  Unfortunately Fred was away on business when Matthew decided to arrive but that just meant that I got to cuddle Matthew before Fred did.




Daniel is still busy managing Common Grounds Coffee Shop near the university in Belfast and won the Northern Ireland Barista of the Year Championship in September.





Suzie was enjoying teaching P1 but was happy when it came time to go off on her maternity leave and we are not sure how happy she will be to return to teaching because she is so happy being at home with Matthew right now.





Linda is still in South Korea but has moved to a different area, Wongju in February to teach English at a university now.  It means we have new names to remember of friends that she has now made but she is still keeping in touch with her other Korean friends in Gangneung too.

She was able to come stay for a few weeks in August after having one of her best friends visit her in Korea.  Of course when she comes, she always brings some fun presents and this trip meant a selfie stick for Fred and of course he had to try it out straight away.




She is sad because she hasn't met her nephew yet except on facetime, so she has booked to fly over for the whole month of February and we are all looking forward to that.



Fred is doing the consultancy work that he moved into with Dupont during 2014.  This means he is travelling a lot to places like Saudi, Morocco, Germany, Switzerland, Ireland, England, Finland, Australia and I've probably forgotten some others.
When he is here he is still leading worship and helping on the leadership of our church.


The Four Black Boys


This year I finished a Tesol course at Belfast Bible College along with a friend from our church and in September we started up weekly English Classes in the church.   There are about 35 people (mostly from Poland) who are regularly coming to learn English.  We did 10 weeks of classes before Christmas and we hope to have another 20 weeks before next summer so that takes a lot of time in preparation each week to teach a two hour class and I am back writing Lesson Plans again after all these years since teaching Maths.
I'm also continuing with the Sunday School Curriculum for our church and helping in other ways there too.

I have been busy with this blog that I started in 2012 but really got wholeheartedly into at the start of 2014 and enjoy the writing and making the graphics for it.  Quite often when we are out somewhere Fred will say "I suppose you want a picture for the blog?", or when we see something or talk about something someone will say "I can see a blog post coming out of that" and they are mostly right.


Fred & I did not get away on a nice long holiday this year (because he has been so busy with work) just two days in Ballycastle and the Dark Hedges but we thoroughly enjoyed that little weekend break for my birthday.




We also drove around various places in Southern Ireland for almost two weeks but that was not a holiday it was for Fred's work and I went along to make sure he stayed awake as he had to drive so many miles each evening from one place to another.
We did manage to have a few laughs along the way some of which you can read about in 10 Things that made me Laugh in Ireland


To finish up I would just like to give thanks to God for the fact that He has continued to be with us all in all our different locations and has guided each of us through our various experiences of this year.




Love to all

Sandra  &  the rest of the Black family



Sunday, 13 December 2015

Pondering The Psalms - Psalm 141

Each Sunday I am going to choose a Psalm and write down some brief thoughts on it.


Today I'm looking at Psalm 141 


This is a Psalm of David


This Psalm falls into 4 parts:


V. 1-2
A prayer up to God


V. 3-4
My influences on my heart


V. 5-7
Outward influences on my heart


V. 8-10
My refuge


A Prayer up to God.
A plea to be heard by the Lord but respectful and offered in a reverential, sacrificial, form of worship.




Our influence on our hearts.
David is asking for God's help so that he can control his fleshly attitudes and not be enticed into any evil ways.


Outward influences on our hearts.
David is well aware of the evil around him and knows that he can trust God for protection from others and that God's Word is more powerful than man's.


Our Refuge.
David knows exactly where his help and refuge is.  They are in the Lord.
He can seek God for all the protection and help he needs.



Where is our help?




Is our prayer to God offered respectfully?

Is our prayer a reverential,  sacrificial form of worship?

Is our prayer for the protection of our hearts from ourselves and from others?

Our we as sure as David that God is our true help and refuge?






Wednesday, 9 December 2015

3 Christmas Hats - A Dose of Encouragement 102


Many years ago in a far off land......


Well it is true!

It was over 25 years ago,
and it was in America which is a long way 
from Northern Ireland.


Many years ago in a far off land a young father was shopping in a really large shopping mall when he got lost......

No sorry that's another story!


Many years ago in a far off land a young father was shopping in a really large shopping mall when he saw something that he just could not resist buying for his 3 young children.

It was December and so it was getting close to Christmas time and in that shopping mall there was a stall where someone was selling Santa hats.

Now these were not just ordinary Santa hats, they were personalised Santa hats.

This father thought his children would love to have Santa hats with their names in glitter so he (probably spending more money than he should) bought three hats:




one for Jonathan, one for Daniel and one for Linda.

If you look closely at the picture above you will see a school photo of the 3 kids at roughly the ages they were when these hats were bought.

The hats come out each Christmas and it just would not feel the same without them we have got so used to propping them up together each year and always think back to when they actually fitted on the kids heads.

In our family, Christmas would just not be the same without remembering something else too.

Yes we give and receive presents,  eat a large turkey dinner and gather together to enjoy each other's company but the most important thing is:


Thinking back to the marvellous event of over 2,000 years ago when Jesus was born.


We know just how much difference it made in our family as each of our 3 children were born and the family grew, but in this new family in Bethlehem there was the biggest difference there could ever be to a family.

They had just welcomed God Incarnate into their lives.

They had just welcomed God Incarnate into their lives


The Son of God became a man and dwelt on earth, He truly was Immanuel - God with us!


Yes, they had just welcomed God Incarnate into their lives and into the world and this was to make the biggest difference the world would ever know.

Today I would love you to look back to those well-known passages of the Bible that tell us the Christmas story and acknowledge that it is actually Christ's story, the telling of Jesus Christ becoming man and joining the people of the world so that at a later time He could give His life to be the Saviour of the world.




Our family know the difference that Christ has made in our lives and we pray that you have allowed Him to make that difference in your lives too.

My God truly be with you.





If you would like to know more about the difference He can make in your life please click on the 3 2 1 video in my sidebar.



Tuesday, 8 December 2015

The Murder at the Vicarage - Book Review

I am trying to read through the novels of Agatha Christie in the order in which they were written and write a review on each one.
  

The Murder at the Vicarage. 

1930  
A Miss Marple Story.


Shelfari Description


'Anyone who murdered Colonel Protheroe', declared the parson, brandishing a carving knife above a joint of roast beef, 'would be doing the world at large a favour!'
It was a careless remark for a man of the cloth. And one which was to come and haunt the clergyman just a few hours later - when the Colonel is found shot dead in the clergyman's study. But as Miss Marple soon discovers, the whole village seems to have had a motive to kill Colonel Protheroe.
The first Miss Marple mystery, one which tests all her powers of observation and deduction.





My Thoughts

This is the 13th book by Agatha Christie and the First involving Miss Marple.

Oh how no-one thinks an elderly spinster could be interesting or knowledgeable when it comes to - well almost anything except perhaps her garden.

This book is full of endearing characters and infuriating characters which are probably the norm in an English Village the difference here being that one of those infuriating characters gets murdered.

Plenty of suspects and a complicated timeline of events makes this a difficult case to solve until Miss Marple can see around and through various aspects of this mystery.

A great storyline to introduce this sleuth and one that is definitely suited to her personality and insight.   So read and enjoy (as I did) and watch out for the clock, the garden and all the people that see everything in a village.


 Here is a link to a list of her novels on Shelfari
Books by Agatha Christie








Sunday, 6 December 2015

Pondering the Psalms - Psalm 113


Each Sunday I am going to choose a Psalm and write down some brief thoughts on it.


Today I'm looking at Psalm 113 


This is a Psalm of Praise from start to finish.



This Psalm falls into three parts:

V. 1
Praise the Lord!

V. 2-4
Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

V. 5-9
Who is like the Lord our God?




Praise the Lord!
Just go on and Praise Him is the feeling blasting out in this verse.
If you serve the Lord then Praise His Name.


Blessed be the Name of the Lord!
Now and forever.
During every part of the day.
Because He is the greatest.


No-one cares like Him.

Who is like the Lord our God?
No-one because no-one does what He does.
No-one cares like He does.





Even though we have just been told by the Psalmist that the 
Lord is seated on high,

we are also told of the needs He meets for His people 
and 
the love He bestows on them.


He does not ignore our hurts and our feelings.


Praise the Lord!





Wednesday, 2 December 2015

A New Christmas Decoration - A Dose of Encouragement 101


I really shouldn't have!


We have so many already!


I'm supposed to be decluttering, not bringing more things into the house!


But I just couldn't resist buying that new decoration for the Christmas tree.


I was out buying special Christmas Cards and looking for ideas for gifts in the Faith Mission Book Shop when I noticed it and the temptation grabbed me.

Fred just smiled when I showed it to him and didn't say the obvious

"not another decoration"  

 he can be so nice to me sometimes ( ok I admit it's not just sometimes but most of the time ).


It's not the only one I've bought this year, but ssssshhh that's a secret until closer to Christmas.


I have to admit I really like tree decorations that bring back memories like our 3 sleighs and the fan that get hung up each year.

But there is something special about bible themed tree decorations and the one I got was definitely bible themed with Mary and Joseph holding the baby Jesus.





Yes I admit is is rather similar to the the one I wrote about in the True Christmas blog post last year.  

But I think perhaps I was drawn to this new one because we have been doing a lot of holding and cuddling of our baby grandson since he was born at the start of last month.

It is amazing how one small child can change the structure of a marriage relationship - it is not just a couple any more it is now a family with another person there forever making a 3 Sided relationship.  This is a life-altering event in any marriage and as was mentioned in a recent post Congratulations;  it can be the best day of the lives of the couple.


Jesus obviously changed the structure of his family not only in the obvious special way as a new life born into that relationship but also because of exactly Who He was - the Son of God.  His birth was not only the best day of the lives of Mary and Joseph but also the best day in the life of the world thus far - God had come down to earth.

Look at the wording on the decoration



Jesus came to be the hope of all the world,

                                                          of everyone,

                                                                           of you ,

                                                                                      of me.


This was definitely a life-altering event for the whole world.

Our new decoration reminds us of the new Hope we have in Jesus when we acknowledge He is Lord and accept His gift of salvation.


Born as a baby but born to be the Saviour of all.




Jesus is all this 
and 
our true hope, 
regardless of us or anything else that is going on in the world.


I am thankful that I have a Saviour and that I have the Hope of all.

If you would like to know more about how you can personally experience this life-altering event please take a few minutes to watch the video 3 2 1 on the sidebar.