Doreen Harrison writes a weekly column for the Free Press newspaper called Icthus. Below are a selection of her latest columns
In Torfaen there is a working farm which cares for rescued animals and which is staffed by rescued humans. It is called Vision of Hope. On a recent visit, we were introduced to two of the horses and this is their story. One horse has a sway back and is almost blind. In a desperate state when she arrived, care gave her a degree of vitality , but she still had a lack of confidence in any one and anything . Another stallion joined the stable, an awkward, angry horse, betrayed and ill treated, but he began to identify with the needs of the partially blind mare, to look after her in the field, to guide her , and both these horses began to change in temperament . Some one cared ! Of course, in this situation we need to include the “rescued“ man, who works with the horses. He explained how caring for them and engaging their trust had encouraged him and redeveloped his own character. And, of course, someone cared enough to “rescue“ the stable man, and trust him with responsibility and provide him with a family and a home. The inspiration of Vision of Hope is that God cares. “Someone cares” has a knock-on effect. When we look outwards instead of inwards, we develop ourselves as well as does the person for whom we are expressing our care and concern. There is incredible wisdom in these words of Jesus; “Love the Lord your God with all your heart , mind and strength, and love your neighbour as you love yourself. “Someone cares? We are living in an impersonal age when it seems that every part of our living is put on a computer and readily available to any authority who might require our credentials .Are we becoming walking “tick lists “ , fitting into pre-determined categories? How can this be, when each of us is a unique personality , when no one had - or has --- or will have(!) a DNA which matches yours? We are told that out of the trillions of people who have-- or will—inhabit planet earth, the very hairs of your head are numbered by God! It is impossible to explain, or even hope to comprehend the care of such a God. Which is why the bible reminds us; “Now, faith is being sure of what we hope for –and certain of what we do not see.” How is your faith towards the great Someone who cares for you?
August 24th 2016
August 31st 2016
Windows 10 displays various backgrounds: a boy running along a shiny beach-a collection of radiant sunsets, splendid clouds-a rough sea, beating over rugged rocks. Most intriguing is the background of a red velvet armchair in the middle of a dark, dense wood.
How did it get there? Why is it there? What happens when it rains? Is it an exotic example of illegal tipping? What does it mean?
The major social problem of the Media is that they think FOR us, instead of stimulating us to think for ourselves. However, a red velvet armchair in the middle of a wood cannot fail to stimulate some considerations! May be that is the purpose of this particular background.
Remember the nursery rhyme? “ If you go down to the woods today, you’re in for a big surprise- For every bear that ever there was is gathered there for certain, because- Today’s the day the teddy bears have their picnic.”
Change the word “bear” to “fear” and maybe we have an unfortunate picture of human life. Often we feel we are in a dense wood and fear is holding its celebrations there, a picnic of self doubt, unexpected circumstance, a drear collection of “what ifs”. So look for the red armchair! Relax, rest and be re-assured..
The Bible offers this advice “ Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee”. We are so prone to want to explain everything away. A red velvet chair in the middle of a wood? How illogical! To actually identify the support and comfort of God Himself in the situations we are in- also defies explanation. How illogical that the King of Kings, Creator of the ends of the earth, is so concerned for me that He provides the red armchair of His love- wherever and whenever it is needed the most! What is the point of trying to explain the logic of the love of God? Just accept His peace and fix your thoughts on Him.
Thank you Windows 10 for a background that reminds us to thank God for His unfailing love- and maybe also for His sense of humour?
So- it’s September. John Keats, the poet, describes it like this;
“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Close-bosomed friend of the maturing sun. Conspiring with him how to load and bless with fruit The vines that round the thatched eaves run”.
The blackberries are certainly large and luscious this year. The weather pattern has loaded the brambles and we can begin to enjoy the splendour of harvest.
In the late 19th century when whooping cough was prevalent, it was common to pass small children through a bramble bush as a cure. Once passed through the bush, an offering of bread and butter was left under the arch in the belief that the disease would leave with the food. In our century, whooping cough is almost eradicated. No-one is likely to see a slice of bread and butter under a bramble bush, or a scratched but cured child skipping down the road. Times have changed! Some aspects of living do not change- Autumn still produces its bounty of blackberries.
When Noah and his family came out of the ark, God said to them, ”As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” The response, that some areas of planet earth are haunted by the prospect of famine, does not negate the promise. Maybe the operative phrase is “As long as the earth endures”. Progress is rapid, food can be flown around the world in a matter of days- no country need starve, suffer deprivation, despair. The real truth is in the phrase “only man is vile!”
Someone asked the question, “Who is my neighbour?” We are all bound up in the bundle of life together, and my neighbour is anyone who breathes the air of our planet. September could be specially blessed, if each one of us took to heart the awareness that we should love our neighbour as ourselves.
September 7th 2016
Tourists were viewing Niagara Falls. One of them, a newly qualified plumber, surveyed the outrageous flow of water shrewdly.Then he turned to his companion and affirmed, “You know, I could fix that!”Full marks for thinking big—but no marks for thinking he could control such power. I was reminded of a small boy, busy with crayons and paper. Dad asked him,”What are you drawing?”“God”was the simple answer. Dad said, “How can you draw God? No one knows what He looks like.“ His son replied, “ They will when I finish—if I ever do.“ He was thinking big about an infinite subject. We live on a ball which we call Planet Earth. It is immense in circumference, speeds around in space and its movements are so incredibly dependable so that, centuries ahead, its position in the universe can already be affirmed! But have you ever considered these facts and questioned why all the water doesn’t just pour off this revolving planet of ours? Who has fixed it so that the water of Niagara doesn’ t plummet off into space? We are so prone to take our “plumbers kit“ of human reasoning and fix away the grandeur and glory of God. We try to train the power of Niagara Falls to flow through the tap of what we can understand and control. We want to express God on the A4 of our human intellect, in the colours of our own choice. Maybe the tourist plumber had a second thought “I’m glad that I don’t have to fix it .l’ll leave it to someone bigger than me.“ Perhaps the junior artist finally realised that God is so big there is not enough paper or collection of colours in the world to really represent His presence. In which case, both of them were thinking big! God is a big thinker. His big thought was to send Jesus – such an enormous thought, that even eternity will be too short to extol Him. Jesus came – that we might be forgiven! He died to make us good. Now, we at last may go to Heaven, saved by his precious blood. Big thoughts from the Big Fixer.
September 14th 2016
The celebration of a patron saint is no small matter. It reminds the nation that its affairs and future are a concern in Heaven and that there continues to be daily prayer in churches and chapels throughout the land This Icthus celebrates St. David on his day.
You are reading this Icthus for St Davids day, he is the patron saint of Wales -- and also of doves.! He was born in Pembrokeshire, about 500 AD and historians identify his father as Sant, king of Ceredigon, and his mother as a nun, named Non. David was born during a wild thunderstorm David became a monk. He was known as Dewi Dyfrur, which means David the water drinker ,on account of his abstemious diet of --- bread and water! His reputation spread, he visited southern England, Ireland, Brittany, and when he travelled to Jerusalem, he was made an Arch Bishop. During his lifetime he established 12 monasteries. He died on March1st, 589AD, and he was canonised in 1120AD.
He is recorded as a miracle worker: He restored a blind man's sight, As he wept over the dead child, his tears splashed onto the body -- and e child came back to life ! While preaching to a crowd in the village of Llandewi refa, a white dove landed on his houlderAs it did so, the level ground on which he was standing ,rose up to frm a mighty hill, so that all the crowd could see and hear him preach.The dove became St Davids emblem ,it represents the Holy Spirit, who gifted David with eloquence as a preacher.People often wear leeks on March 1st.There was a battle between a Saxon army and the Welsh army. David advised the Welsh warriors to wear a leek with their uniform -- to distinguish between the two forces. The Welsh were victorious ,and leeks have become a national symbol --- along with daffodils which are usually in full bloom for St Davids day .. St Davids last advice to his followers was -- .Be joyful, keep your faithand your creed.Do the little things you have seen me do and heard about.OnSt Davids day , consider these appropriate words from Psalm 90 Lord, youhave been our dwelling place through out all generations.Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world -- from ever lasting to everlasting , you are God.Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love ,that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days .