Thursday, 31 December 2015

My 2015 review

It's come to that time of year when I think about what 2015 was like for me and what I hope for 2016. What did I do? What did I achieve? Where's the photos to prove it? I'm not the best at taking photos but here are some of my highlights in 2015....nothing extremely exciting but then I'm just a very ordinary woman happy with life.

Some things I got to do for the first time in my life....not that they were on my bucket list of things to do. I got to visit Rathlin Island for the first time....beautiful place. I climbed up to Scrabo Tower for the first time. I got to sit in Henry Forde memorial car at Ballinascarthy, Co.Cork....LOL. We discovered Harrisons restaurant outside Greyabbey was a lovely place to eat...and for Adrian to relax over a latte! Of course, we enjoyed going to Cork, Kerry and Ayr too.

Isaac and his friend John had the privilege of visiting Sri Lanka. This brought me great joy, especially as we adopted him and brought him to Ireland when he was a baby and so he had no memories of the country where he was born.

My Mum and Dad's diamond wedding anniversary was on 13th April. It was great to see them reach this milestone of 60 years married.

Then, I was so delighted for Jemima graduating with a distinction in a foundation degree in computing,

Believe or not, this year I tried my hand at crocheting again.....something I hadn't done for years. Developed my own patterns as I went along but don't ask me to tell you them for I couldn't remember them.

Also, I had the privilege of  organizing and teaching at Lifeboat Holiday Bible School in July, the theme being 'Little hands in a big world.' Sorry but I have no photos of it.
That's the highlights from my year....perhaps not as outstanding as yours.

Now I do not know what 2015 has been like for you but as 2016 dawns I would encourage you to keep your eyes upon the LORD. Perhaps people have hurt you and let you down and blocked you out of their lives. Remember Christ will never leave you or forsake you, if you are His child. He is the Friend that sticks closer than a brother. Maybe you have been maligned or misrepresented. There's just no one who understands that like Christ. To those who have become discouraged because of the way, and perhaps even lost their way in life, I would say 'Hope thou in God. He will guide you with His eye showing you the path to take.' For those who have suffered great heartache (maybe not able to share it with others), sickness, bereavement....cast all your care (worries, anxiety) upon the Lord for He cares for you. He is the One who stood by the tomb of Lazarus and wept. Maybe you have experienced great temptations or trials. Christ is able to make a way of escape from temptation and to bring you out of trials stronger than before.

The verse that I take with me into 2016 is Isaiah 26v3:
"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee."
I do wish you a very Happy New Year and trust that you will get to know God better in 2016.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

My Granny taught me

I feel I just have to tell you about a wonderful lady in my Granny Armstrong. She was the midwife who 'brought me into this world' and I had the joy of knowing her for 14 years. She died 40 years ago (22nd Nov 1975) but the legacy of what she taught me lingers with me right to this day. My memories of her are precious to me and I would like to share a few with you. (Please bear in mind that these are MY memories of her, not some things related to me. I do not remember her before she retired from work, so I won't be giving you a history lesson of her life).

She taught me by example. I sat by her side and watched her crochet....saw how she did it and when she gave me hook and wool I just practised what she showed me. I remember her crocheting a green lace table mat....and after that I wanted to crochet with thread. Oh yes, and...believe or not....she showed me how to darn those wool socks she had knit for Granda!

She taught me to work conscientiously. I went to help her with housework on Saturday mornings. I had to dust, polish her table, scrub the hall and mop her floors...and yes hoover the carpets with a big noisy hoover that I was scared of at first! I guess I was about 8 years old when I started doing this for her but she trusted me to do it to the best of my ability. At 'spring-cleaning time' it was a treat for me to be allowed into her old attic room that wasn't used any more, to mop and clean it.

She taught me that work well done deserves pay. When I finished my work she always gave me some money....50p at first and then I got a pay rise to £1. I remember one Saturday morning....I must have slept in for I arrived late for work. She told me to go home for she had the work done. Lesson to me....don't be late for work, you don't get paid for work undone!

She taught me that working together can be fun. We made jam together. We peeled spuds together using those old-fashioned knives. My brother Leslie, sister Laura and I worked together with her in her garden....mowing grass, weeding and hedge-clipping. We chatted and laughed while we worked and learned.
Granny and I (Back); Leslie and Laura (front)
She taught me to recycle. Every so often she wanted to clear out all the empty lemonade glass bottles. So, she got Leslie and I to gather them all together and take them to the shop in Benburb. We were delighted for in those days you got a couple of pence for each glass bottle returned to a shop....and of course we got to keep and share the money!

She taught me self-esteem. She believed in me and trusted me to do errands for her. I remember going with her to buy wallpaper one day and she asked me to choose. I was just a young girl but my opinion mattered and she was willing to display my choice on her walls for people to see!

She taught me to enjoy time with family and friends. It didn't matter what time of the day or night I would go to Granny's, she always made me feel welcome and loved. We ate together at her table that sloped with the floor. We listened to stories, laughed and enjoyed the craic together. She took me to visit Aunt Doreen and other relatives and family friends. I watched her interact with others and saw how her genuine concern for them made her a joy to be around. I remember being at a wedding with her. She was so busy chatting to the other guests at the table that she never noticed the waitress was shovelling peas unto her plate, expecting Granny to say when she'd enough. Yes, she was loving and kind and caring towards others but she didn't like to feel that she was a burden on other people.

She taught me to enjoy holidays....they didn't have to be expensive foreign holidays. She would go to stay at friends' homes and have them to stay with her. I even packed my suitcase and went a few hundred yards down the road for a holiday at her house! LOL However, there was one special holiday that I had with her. It was outside Millisle in Co.Down. The beach was literally across the road and we went various places too. But while I was there I gave my life to the Lord.

Aunt Alma, me and Granny on holiday outside Millisle
She taught me about giving. She never forgot Christmas and birthdays. I still have my first watch which she gave me. She genuinely seemed to love to give. She used to do some of her grocery shopping in Benburb and on her way down home she would stop by our house with some sweets. I remember her spinning the wheels as she took off (and it wasn't with speed or anger lol). Then, there was the glass jar she collected her pennies in. When it was full she gave them away to someone. She was selfless in her giving....doing it quietly and never for glory.

She taught me that actions have consequences but there's forgiveness when we do wrong. I remember once getting my brother to mess up or do something to some books on her bookcase. She wasn't amused so we were sent packing off home...and we knew not to return in a hurry! But a few days later, maybe a week, we were allowed back and all was forgiven. Her and I sat at the table and strung beads together to make necklaces. Our misdemeanors were not remembered against us,

She taught me to pray. I'd been told how she prayed a little prayer before each baby she delivered. But she showed me that it was important to pray for the little things in life too. I remember her praying in the car before leaving home and asking God for a safe journey....and she was only going 3 miles down the road to Moy! Yes her faith in God was real.

She taught me to take time alone with God. There was a little bedroom off her living room and she used to go in there to be alone to read. She loved to read People's Friend and other women's magazines and medical journals of her day....but she went in there to be alone to read her Bible. I still have her Bible and I do know that one of her favourite Bible verses was Job 19v25:
"For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another."

She taught me to be resilient. I saw her cry. She was a soft-hearted woman. When people upset her and drove her to tears, or perhaps she just needed some time alone to tearfully reflect and reminisce on life's hurts....she went to that little room. I realize now that rather than cry on someone's shoulder, she went in there to lay her heartache at the feet of her Good Shepherd. Then, later when I'd see her again she would have bounced back, ready to face the world with a loving smile! Life had dealt her some deep wounds....her first husband murdered by the IRA, her son Norman drowned in Australia. But she found her solace in the Lord and valued her family and friends around her. I don't know but perhaps this all contributed to making her the strong, respected lady that she was.

In conclusion, let me tell you about the last time I saw her alive. I'd been down at her house to do my usual piano practice. Before I left she asked me to sweep the floor which I did. I wasn't for staying long for I was going shopping or somewhere that evening. But as I stepped into the scullery a little voice inside me said 'You'll never see your granny alive again'. I brushed it aside and went on outside into the dark and home. Later that evening she took ill, was taken into hospital and then passed on to be with her Redeemer. That little voice was right....I didn't see her alive again. I visited her grave on one or two anniversaries of her death before the reality really dawned on me....she's not in the grave, she's gone to her eternal home! Praise God I'll meet her one day again because I too know her Redeemer as my Saviour.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Butter me up

Have you ever stood on a beautiful sunny day, leaning over the gate of a field where a herd of dairy cows were happily grazing? In the stillness and quietness of the countryside you could hear them tear each mouthful of grass from their pasture. Then, have you watched as they lay down contented after grazing to chew their cud? I have and I find it very relaxing to just forget the world is rushing by and watch these beautiful creatures.....although I don't take the opportunity to do so these days. I suppose it's one of those happy memories that only someone reared in the country understands.

I  empathize with the farmers wanting more money for milk at this time but milk means so much more to me. Milk means I get proper butter! Butter....I just love it spread thick on my toast like cheese! New potatoes taste so good with loads of butter melted into them. Or what about a fried mushroom sandwich with the butter dripping out of it? O the taste of butter is sublime. Margarine just does not taste anywhere near as good. Give me butter any day.

Maybe it's an Armstrong thing but quite a lot of us love butter. It's like it is in our genes to like butter LOL. About 3 years ago I met a cousin of mine for the first time. He was raised in England and now lives in USA. His Dad was Sri Lankan but his granny was an Armstrong. We were amazed and delighted to learn that he liked butter too. We joked that he had inherited the Armstrong gene for butter. Now I don't know if he likes quite as much butter as I do but when I butter my toast in the morning I think of him. I understand that some of my grand-nephews are fond of butter too. If my love for butter is an acquired taste I certainly did not get it from my Mum for she just scraps it on and off the bread. It's my Dad who spreads it thick.

Butter and toast for breakfast
Many moons ago when I was in Bible college, the conversation came up one day around the dinner table about butter vs margarine. I never forget what one of the lecturers said. He spoke of how Abraham gave butter to the Lord. He expressed his opinion that if butter was good enough for the Lord, then it was good enough for him! He went on to say that the Old Testament dietary laws for the Jews did not forbid dairy products from 'clean' animals but rather fat on meat. He suggested that today we confuse dairy fat with animal fat in meat. Now let me make it abundantly clear: this is not the reason I eat butter rather than margarine spreads....and I do not believe in going back to keeping Old Testament dietary laws. I eat butter because I love it! However, I found his opinion interesting, and especially as today research is now suggesting that butter from grass-fed cows is actually better for us than margarine. But then again, I never needed to be told that butter is better than margarine. All I had to do was to look at the list of ingredients in them. The tub of margarine has lots of additives but the packet of butter is just simply milk with a little added salt (and you can get unsalted butter if you so desire). Common sense told me that eating all those chemicals couldn't be good for you.

This is an interesting article showing butter is better than margarine:

Butter vs Margarine – Why I Trust Cows More Than Chemists By Kris Gunnars, BSc 

Yes, I agree. I trust cows more than chemists. I love butter and other dairy products such as cheese and yogurt, as well as milk puddings like custard and semolina. But you know what the amazing thing is: Set a glass of milk before me and I'll say, 'No' to it! But when you give me tea, make sure there's plenty of milk in it please. I have no explanation for this :)

When I was a little girl I used to go to a neighbour lady for piano lessons. Sometimes I would go early and visit her Mum in the kitchen while I waited my turn. Her Mum always seemed to be busy baking bread on a griddle or making butter. Yes, making butter with her own little churn. You see, my Mum always bought butter in the shop for us, so, this was a fascinating process for me to watch as a child, especially when I got to turn the churn! These days I buy my butter and particularly like Kerrygold.

Now, I think by this stage you get the message: Rhonda loves butter. But don't get me wrong. I am not advocating that you go out and clog up your arteries with butter instead of margarine. I am not telling you to eat loads of butter every day at all your meals. Of course you must eat it in moderation. I have no intention of giving up butter but I do not eat wads of it at every meal (just some meals LOL). I make sure I eat fresh fruit and vegetables too.

So, thank God for the cows that produce I can enjoy proper butter. I hope the farmers get the few extra pence per litre for their milk, rather than the so-called 'middle-man.' And the next time you butter your bread, think of me and shoot a little prayer to God in heaven for me. Thanks!

Thursday, 23 July 2015

For the love of technology....

Technology....we can't live without it in today's world but has it become like a drug to us? I've read a couple of articles recently and various comments relating to the amount of time we should allow our children to spend using technology....tablets, phones, laptops, computer games, etc. Some suggest we should severely restrict their daily usage while others suggest they should have a choice to spend unlimited time on them. But before we run away with all the arguments for either view, I just wish to ask a simple question that may be helpful: Do we control technology or does technology control us?

One day, a while back, I was walking into town and I saw a woman walking 2 young children home from school. Bag slung over her shoulder, she was absolutely engrossed with her phone....texting, social networking, playing games, whatever with it. The 2 children were holding on to her from behind and she seemed oblivious to anything going on around her. I just thought to myself 'How sad!' Apart from her possibly not being alert enough to protect them from sudden danger, what sort of message was she conveying to them? Was her phone more important to her than them? Could she not put it away and enjoy a nice walk and talk with them that would make them feel loved and appreciated?

Now I have a mobile phone and use technology every day of the week (and even waste time on it) but this certainly got me thinking! I take my phone practically everywhere with me. I love connecting with people through Facebook, Messenger and Whatsapp. I prepare studies, design PowerPoints and other documents on my computer to use in teaching children God's Word....and even manage my own simple website, I research the internet for pictures, information and use online Bible concordance and commentaries. In fact, I say, 'Give me a Bible and a computer and I'm happy.' (Maybe just throw a smart phone in too!) However, I've had to ask myself: 'Is technology my god? Do I spend more time on Facebook than having fellowship with God? Are my screens more important to me than building good relationships with other people?'

Going South helps me see how much I depend on technology to communicate with others. Once I cross the border into Southern Ireland my O2 big bundle package does not cover data, calls or sending texts. So, data is switched off, and only necessary calls and texts are made. O2 gets enough from me! But that means every time we go to a home or restaurant that has WiFi, out come the phones and we're all sitting communicating via Whatsapp, Messenger and Facebook as well as conversing with each other! That's the modern world that we live in.

No one can deny that technology has become an essential part of life in the modern world. Most jobs require the ability to use it to some degree or other. Outside of work we still Google for information, book holidays and shop online, watch movies and news, call, text, Skype, social network and so on. We are becoming increasingly dependent on technology but we need to remember that it is not the devices that are wrong; it's how we use them that matters. I know that some people's work requires them to spend much time on computerized devices. I understand that instant communication is an necessary part of modern life. And, yes, social networking does provide company and a means to keep in touch with people. However, it is our own responsibility to determine whether or not technology becomes our master.

Now I know that it is very difficult to control a teenager's use of technology. They could be right beside you as you work using their phones to plan badness. They could be doing homework assignments but really communicating with others and watching filth. Confiscate their phone and they will find some other way around it. Quite frankly, you cannot babysit them 24/7. However, we do need to do our best to moderate their use so that they enjoy other activities besides computer games and that they develop the ability to communicate with people of all ages outside of the cyber world. But may I hasten to say, not all teenagers use technology for wrong purposes.

I, myself, face the daily challenge of loving the Lord my God with all my heart, soul and mind. So, I must take care lest technology becomes like an addictive drug that draws my mind away from the Lord. It's like a drug that says: Just one more quick look on Facebook to see what my friends are up to and how many likes I have on my page....rather than finding a quiet place to be alone with God. Or maybe I've been searching for hours for something online and I'm just so mentally drained that I cannot benefit as well as I should from reading my Bible and praying. Yes, I'm human and do not always succeed where I should.

There are 3 words that help me monitor my use of technology so that it does not master me to become my god and they are CONTROL, BALANCE and DISCIPLINE. They speak for themselves. I must control what I use technology for. I must strike the right balance between my screens, other activities and family. I must discipline myself as to how much time I spend on my screens. And, of course, there's the issue of SAFETY. I must do what I can to protect myself and my family online, That's why I have HomeSafe protection from my internet that when I Google for kids Bible pictures of Adam and Eve, I don't end up on some dodgy website with inappropriate pictures!

1 Samuel 9v27
In conclusion, I was reading 1 Samuel 9 earlier today (and I personally still do prefer to read the hard copy of God's Word in my devotions). I know this passage is about Samuel anointing Saul to be king. However, these words: 'But stand thou still a while that I may shew thee the word of God' have an application for each one of us. To me, this is more than just skimming over the Bible stories and facts. It is leaving the distractions aside to hear the LORD speak personally to me. Let us ever purposely take time out from our busy lives with all its technology and just be still, waiting for the LORD to speak to us from His Word.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Lifting my eyes to God in these wicked days

I have been greatly grieved by events of the past week. The judge ruled against Ashers bakery and then Ireland voted 'Yes' in the referendum to allow same sex marriage. 

I have been following the Ashers case and I support them in their stand. Right throughout the case they have maintained that the message they were asked to put on the cake, and not the customer, was the problem. I listened to the news. I have watched video clips online. I went to the Waterfront Hall on 24th March 2015 to show my support for the MacArthur family but was one of the hundreds of people outside unable to get in. I heard Daniel MacArthur speak briefly to those who remained outside that night, to thank us for our support. At no time did I see him incite hate towards the gay community. Rather, I saw him conduct himself with dignity and with respect to those who did not agree with his stance. So, my heart was saddened when the judge ruled against Ashers bakery, saying they had discriminated against a gay customer. But I do believe that God will honour them for their stand.
The LORD says, Them that honour Me I will honour. (1 Samuel 2v30 KJV)
Then, Ireland voted 'Yes'' to allow same sex marriage, with a greater majority than I expected. Yes, this is Catholic Ireland that was known across the world for its more conservative views on marriage. Current opinions, especially of young people, are changing. Sadly, they not turning in favour of Biblical principles. However, I do praise God that there are those in Ireland from many different backgrounds, Christian and non-Christian, who voted 'No'. But in all this, I wonder where this leaves those who sincerely hold religious views. Must they be forced to act against their conscience? I do feel that there does need to be some sort conscience clause or legal ruling to protect their rights, too.

Why am I so sad? Well, when people give witness in the courts of this country they are asked to swear by the Bible that they will tell the truth, the whole, truth and nothing but the truth. I have read that Book many times and in it I see very clearly:
  • God ordained marriage in Genesis between one man and one woman to procreate and raise children.  God our Creator defined marriage and, therefore, no one has the right to redefine it.
  • The Lord Jesus Christ upheld marriage to be between one man and one woman (Matthew 19v4-5)
  • Nowhere does the Bible say that God is pleased with homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
  • Throughout the pages of the Bible homosexuality is shown to be a sin. Irrespective of what arguments are raised, the bottom line is: homosexuality is a sin against God and needs to be repented of as sin....just like every other sin.
  • In the Old Testament homosexuality was punishable by death but Christ has taken the punishment for ALL sin when He died on the cross. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from ALL sin (1 John 1v7).
  • Some New Testament Christians had been guilty of homosexuality and were forgiven by the Lord (1 Corinthians 6v9-11).
  • We are not to hate homosexuals. 
So in the light of this, I ask, 'Why swear by a Book in a court of law if you do not accept what it teaches?' But, also, knowing that the Bible is God's standard of faith and practice for our lives, I'm saddened when it is legislated against. Take the Bible, read it for yourself, asking God to show you what is truth.

Another thing that saddened me was some comments I read about the rainbow in the sky seen over Dublin on Saturday. It was suggested that Jesus was approving the 'Yes' result in the referendum. But may I point out to you, firstly, that Jesus does not act contrary to His Word. Secondly, the rainbow was given by God to show to the world that He will never send another worldwide flood (Genesis 9v8-17). Thirdly, God judged the great sinfulness of people in Noah's day by destroying the whole world with a worldwide flood (Genesis chapters 6-9). May I suggest that God was reminding people that He does judge sin.

So what should I do because of these sad events? Be downcast, looking at all the darkness of sin around, thinking everything is hopeless? Sit and moan and grumble and complain? Show animosity to those I disagree with? No! No! No! I will lift my eyes far above all these sad events unto the Almighty Creator who is Sovereign over all. Just as the psalmist said,
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help? My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. (Psalm 121v1-2 KJV)

What do we need to lift our eyes to the LORD for?
  • He is grieved far more than any of us can imagine at sin but we can trust Him to work for His glory.
  • God blesses obedience and punishes disobedience. It is not for me to presume how or when God will judge Ireland. But we need to cry to Him for mercy upon Ireland.
  • Wisdom for parents raising young children
  • Young people will get to know the Word of God and the God of the Bible, and stand for Him with conviction.
  • Ashers and anyone else who finds themselves in the position of being forced to do something inconsistent with their religious beliefs.
  • That God would move in a mighty way throughout all of this island saving souls from all walks of life, irrespective of their background or sexuality

May I point out: I do not write this blog out of hate in my heart for anyone in the gay community or to incite hatred of them.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

60 Diamond Years

They say that diamonds are a girls best friend. I'm not so sure about that but I do know that all beautiful diamonds are not bright sparkly gems worn on fingers or around necks. Diamonds are hard gems created under very high temperature and pressure, and then skillfully cut to show their brilliance. Apparently it would take temperature of 3550 C to melt diamonds. Hence, they are said to last forever. No wonder the 60th wedding anniversary is called the diamond wedding anniversary!

My parents were married 60 years ago in Moy Church of Ireland on 13th April 1955. Not many have the privilege of reaching this special milestone but I rejoice that God has spared my parents to do so. They have experienced the heat and pressure in life and felt deep cuts dealt to them during their 60 years together. Their son Norman died in 1961. They each lost their brother in very sad circumstances. Both had heart bypasses. Add to this other hard, hurtful times and the pressures of raising 4 children on a basic income. But they survived all the tearful and difficult times of their 60 years together to come out as a beautiful diamond. They share many precious happy memories of the good craic, holidays, and events with family and friends....all too many to mention here. God gave them a lovely bungalow to live in. They've 8 grandchildren and 6 beautiful great grandchildren to be proud of.

Yes, it's been 60 years since they said, 'I do' but their love for each other is still evident. They can rejoice in their faithfulness to each other. And, of course, they were delighted to receive a card from the queen sending them her congratulations and best wishes! But best of all that they know Christ as Saviour. 

To mark this special occasion, we took them back to Derryoghill Orange hall where they met over 60 years ago. Caterers were arranged for the surprise tea, the hall was decorated and many other fine details sorted to provide this trip down memory lane. There are very few left who were at their wedding but 4 of their wedding guests were able to attend this 60th anniversary celebration.

Thank you Lord for giving them 60 Diamond years together.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Love is...

St.Valentine's Day has come and gone and now it's back to work after a weekend of love! Flowers, chocolates, perfume, gifts, romantic movies, wining and dining were all used to express love. I hope each young man reading this blog treated his young lady well! February 14 is widely celebrated as Saint Valentine's Day, and yet there is a lack of reliable facts known about this saint of love himself. I cannot fill in the blanks for you but in this blog I wish to get you thinking about true love.

The focus of St. Valentine's Day is upon romantic love, but there are various other forms of love. There is the love of things....wealth and material possessions, fame and power. There is the love that family members have for each other. Family love and loyalty often displays the truth in that old saying: 'Blood is thicker than water.' Then, there is that loving care for our fellow human beings. We may not necessarily like or deeply love them but we do not wish them any ill and we will help those in need. But true love goes much deeper than all of these. It is that unconditional, self-sacrificing love that will even love those who seem unlovable. It is love in its purest form and it is often referred to as agape love. It is Divine love. God's love far transcends all other love. We cannot love as God but we should seek to emulate His love in our lives.

The Bible tells us that God is love (1 John 4v16). He does not just love us. He is love. The greatest display of His love is Him sending His Sinless Son Jesus Christ into this world to save us guilty hell-deserving sinners.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3v16
Christ loved us and gave Himself for us (Ephesians 5v2). This is the pure sacrificial love of Christ. The fruit of the Spirit is love (Galatians 5v22). The Holy Spirit enables us to love with that pure agape love (Romans 5v5). God has commanded us to love the LORD with all our heart, soul, strength and mind and to love our neighbour as ourselves (Luke 10v27). He expects us to love our enemies (Matthew 5v44). If we truly love God we will keep His commandments (John 14v15). Having this pure agape love shows that we are His disciples (John13v35).

Love God's way 1 Corinthians 13

But what is this pure agape love? All of the Bible verses above speak of this agape love but read 1 Corinthians 13 to see how God describes it. This chapter is known as the great love chapter in the Bible. The word 'charity' in the KJV means love. The Greek word is agape. So, this chapter tells us what agape love is like. Think about each of these descriptions of love in relation to your own. Pure agape love....

  1. Love suffers long (very patient). We will be long suffering to those who annoy us, hurt us and wrong us.
  2. Love is kind. We will show simple acts of kindness and speak kind words to those all around us.
  3. Love does not envy. Envy is a very damaging sin that only leads to hurt. Love will have nothing to do with it. We will not envy others because of their possessions, blessings, talents and opportunities in life. Don't have a spirit of sour godliness.
  4. Love does not vaunt itself. We will not parade ourselves, wanting the limelight to show off what we have done to get others to praise us.
  5. Love is not puffed up. We will not be proud and 'big-headed'....not even spiritually proud where we look down on others who have not advanced as far in Christian knowledge.
  6. Love does not behave unseemly. We will not behave rudely or inappropriately to others. This is not referring to having etiquette and a stiff upper lip, so that you cannot have fun and enjoy a good laugh!
  7. Love does not seek her own. We will not be selfish and self-centred or insist on our own way. We will care about the needs of others.
  8. Love is not easily provoked. It is easy to be provoked or irritated with those who are just plain annoying. But true love won't 'loose the rag' quickly.
  9. Love thinks no evil. We will not invent and devise evil. We will not keep storing up memories of wrongs we have suffered or be resentful. Yes, we will try to see the best in people rather than misjudging them for their motives.
  10. Love does not rejoice in iniquity. We will not rejoice in hearing, seeing or doing sinful things. We will not be glad when others fall into sin. We will want the best for others and refuse to colour things against others.
  11. Love rejoices in truth. We will stand for and find joy in truth. We will not delight in lies, slander and gossip.
  12. Love bears all things. We will not give up on people no matter what they have done.
  13. Love believes all things. This doesn't mean we will believe lies or be gullible. We will not believe evil unless the facts demand it. We will choose to believe the best about others.
  14. Love hopes all things. We will confidently face the future, hoping for the best, hoping and trusting in God.
  15. Love endures all things. We will keep on going and never give up no matter what life throws at us.
  16. Love never fails. Love will never end. Genuine pure agape love will melt even the hardest of hearts.

Think about each of these love facts in relation to your own life. How do you measure up to this standard? I don't know about you but I fall far short. But praise God, we are not left alone to try to practise this agape love in our lives. God teaches us how to love one another (1 Thessalonians 4v9). We just need to be willingly to let Him work through us! So as we head into a new week of work, let us endeavour to practise pure agape love. And may we do so for His glory!

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. 1 Corinthians 13v13 KJV

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Iron Woman

Yesterday afternoon I was at Craigavon hospital for a venesection. That's simply giving a unit of blood. And as you can see from the photos it's not an experience that I particularly enjoy. Maybe you're thinking that I'm great for donating blood to help those in need of it. Well, what would you think if I told you that my blood is disposed of by burning? It does not go into the blood bank or even be used for research! So, why do I give it? Simple answer: I've inherited a condition known as haemochromatosis and the treatment for it is to give blood.

What is haemochromatosis? Haemochromatosis is very simply an iron overload. You see my body absorbs and stores too much iron. I'm an iron woman! LOL  The excess iron is stored around my joints and organs and over time that causes harm to my joints and organs. If haemochromatosis is left untreated, it can lead to conditions like arthritis, diabetes, liver disorders, heart disease. (Please understand that not everyone who has these conditions has haemochromatosis). If you want a more detailed explanation, Google haemochromatosis, or read this Haemochromatosis Society Leaflet
I like this little video as I think it gives a good overview of haemochromatosis:
What is haemochromatosis? video

How was I diagnosed? I suppose it was about 5 years ago, when I went to the doctor with joint pain and tiredness. My ankle, in particular, would swell and be sore, causing me to limp a bit sometimes. I felt I was just too young to have arthritis or such like. I was tired and thought I must be needing iron so I was taking multivitamins and iron tablets. They didn't cure my tiredness and little did I know that I was only making things worse for myself! The doctor referred me to the rheumatologist at the hospital. I was x-rayed, had blood tests and was referred to the haematologist. In the end, I was told that I had haemochromatosis. I had never heard tell of haemochromatosis before this.

What is the treatment? There is no medication to take for it. For this I am thankful as all medications can have side effects. But every fortnight I went to have a venesection. The idea is that after I give blood, my body will make up new red blood cells by drawing from the iron stored in my body around my joints and organs. At one of my first venesections the haematologist nurse said that they were hoping to get my ferritin level down to about 20. I asked what mine was and she said that it was 2000..!! It took over a year to get my ferritin level down. Now that it is down it needs to be kept down. So every 3-4 months I have simple blood tests done to determine whether or not I need a venesection. If my ferritin level goes above 50, I have to go and give more blood. It's been about 9 months since my previous venesection but my ferritin level was 98 so I needed to get rid of more iron.

What about diet? I just have to be sensible but eat a healthy diet. I am to avoid too much red meat and iron fortified cereals. I'm not to take multivitamins and iron tablets. Vitamin C helps with the absorption of iron in the body. I love fruit and pure fruit juice so I should be careful taking too much of these with meals. However, the tanins in tea help prevent the absorption of iron....just as well that I love tea!

How do I feel now? I'm delighted that I was diagnosed before any major damage was done. I'm not dancing on the rooftops but can still enjoy a good walk. I love a good walk in Peatlands Park but about 2 and half miles is my limit. The fact is, some days my joints are stiffer and sorer than others. One day I could walk with a spring in my step and another day I would limp a bit and find going down stairs difficult. You see, what damage was done cannot be undone but hopefully keeping my iron level under control will help prevent haemochromatosis causing more damage to my joints and organs. However, it is a blessing that my family are supportive and we can even enjoy a joke about it together!

Diagram showing Family Risk of inheriting Haemochromatosis

Let me make it abundantly clear, I have NOT written this blog to get your pity. I do not wish to be cushioned or treated with kid-gloves. I know my limits and try to live within them. I wrote this blog to help raise awareness of haemochromatosis. It's not only men in their 30's or women in their 50's who develop it. It is a condition which is inherited and can show itself at any age. It is also called 'The Celtic Curse' as a higher percentage of people of Celtic origin have it. It may be described as a silent-killer as the symptoms are often treated but the real cause overlooked. Remember the symptoms are not unique to haemochromatosis. If you are concerned that you may have it, talk to your doctor. Routine blood tests do not show you have it. Blood tests showing ferritin levels need to be done. If a family member suffers from it, I advise you to get checked out. You need to have the gene test done to determine if you have inherited the haemochromatosis gene.

To conclude, I wish to thank my good friend Elizabeth Wallace for bringing me for my venesection and for taking the above photos for me.