Unanticipated Rest

We drove along the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond. It was the last evening of our week long experience of Scotland and all were a little tired. The previous night we had our first taste of “glamping” (glamorous camping?) and not many of us were well rested. The comfort received from thin blue camping mats did not increase as I layered more and more of them under my body on the wooden floor – you’d think four would help! Lindsey offered what sounded like whooping cough to the confined space as Kelly sought to stifle her cough by putting her head under a pillow.

But, a new day had begun, it was sunny (or at least not raining) and it was August the 4th – Kya’s 9th Birthday.  Kya started the day with a large piece of chocolate cake from a local café and we drove on to the beautiful Isle of Skye. We listened to bagpipers and saw the sights of this legendary corner of the ancient and storied land.

But it was now the end of a long day, the girls were drifting in and out of sleep, and Kelly and I had no place to stay. When we had tried booking a place two weeks previous there was nothing to be found for Saturday night at a reasonable rate. The Edinburgh Tattoo had just begun and the crowds had arrived.

As we drove along the shores of Loch Lomond, we enjoyed the beauty, yet had that sinking feeling that it would be a sleepless night leading to an exhausting last day – not a great way to end the tour. Our plan was for the girls to fall asleep in the van and then we’d pull over at the side of the road and rest for a while too. As we drove we began to hope that maybe somewhere there would be ‘room at the inn’. We pulled into a couple little hotels and were told that there was nothing anywhere, but at the third place, in a town called Troon, the staff did some calling around and found a room in another hotel with one double bed. Though it wasn’t a great area of town, nor was it quite suitable for six of us, we were so delighted with this inexpensive, last minute find. We were so thankful to have a flat place to lie down (it was the two birthday kids – Kya and myself who got the bed!); also, to have a shower and toilet was wonderful! We started the Lord’s Day with a grateful heart. We played in the local playground then chose from three Church of Scotland’s within one block of each other and worshipped our Lord with joy.

There have been so many occasions where we expected little and were surprised with so much more. Where we planned for challenge, great expense, or disappointment and rejoiced in a pleasant sense of ease, or startling generosity or encouragement. The Lord grants opportunities to see grace but often I’ve overlooked those moments. Paul said in his letter to the Philippians:

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every   situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.    Phil. 4:11-12

Experiences outside of our comfort zone prepare us for challenge but also stimulate great rejoicing when the goodness of God’s love, often displayed through loving people, is expressed. As I finish this reflection, our family has just returned from the cattle market auction in downtown Kilrea. Someone from the Church saw us there and took us out for lunch afterwards.

The generosity, sincere welcome, care and interest in our lives that we have experienced in Northern Ireland will never be forgotten. With gratitude and joy in Christ, Tim Bruneau

Celebrating Culture

It has been an interesting week for the Morrow family in Toronto. We have been taking in some of the city’s culture. We visited the annual Toronto carnival on Saturday the 4th August.

Toronto Festival Parade

I’m not quite sure what it was a celebration of, but it was most definitely a celebration of something and it attracted thousands of people.

On Monday the 6th August we visited the Royal Ontario Museum.

The museum had a spider exhibition. This was a celebration of everything spider.

The museum also had some magnificent displays of dinosaur bones and fossils celebrating a significant part of earth’s history.

One of my favourite exhibits was the Egyptian Mummy.

A glimpse into life not just from a bygone age, but an age that conjures images of some of scriptures most famous stories, such as Moses standing before Pharaoh demanding he set God’s people free.

The layout of the museum walked us through the ages and into the ancient Greek and Roman worlds. Busts of Roman emperors brought a different perspective to New Testament history as we got to put a face to some of the famous emperors who did so much to shape the life of the early church.

Yet throughout all the celebrations of culture something was missing.

Nowhere was there a celebration of Christian culture. The dinosaur section gave no indication of creation which depended on design. The Egyptian displays made no mention of any of the great biblical stories which did so much to shape that ancient nations history. Among all the Roman artefacts where were the nails made famous when used to crucify God’s son Jesus Christ.

Among all the music, dancing, colour and costumes of the parade the only reference I heard to Jesus was from a group of men who were more interested in debating Jesus skin colour as opposed to what he did while on this earth.

In a world fixated with culture it is time we as Christians and the church celebrate our culture, a culture rich in love and acceptance, a culture full of redemption and hope.

Church BBQ 27th July 2018

Moneydig and Second Kilrea held a Church Barbecue on Friday 27th July at the Manse grounds with around 80 people coming along to enjoy a great night of tasty burgers and sizzling sausages.

Everyone enjoyed the evening and thanks go to Alan and Gerald for looking after the cooking. Thanks to Tim, Kelly and family for allowing the invasion of so many people around their summer residence.

A Canadian View of the Twelfth

Tim Bruneau from St Giles Kingsway Presbyterian Church gives his thoughts on this years twelfth parade in Garvagh.

Our family participated in what is likely the largest celebration in Northern Ireland of the year – the July 12th Parade.

It is commonly called “The Twelfth”, or ‘the Glorious Twelfth’ or ‘Orangemen’s Day’. It is an Ulster Protestant celebration though anyone is welcome, and many Roman Catholics are in attendance. It began in the late 1700’s as a celebration of the revolution (1688) and the victory of the Protestant king William of Orange (from the Netherlands) over Catholic king James II at the Battle of the Boyne (1690) in Ireland. Though it has been a contentious celebration since its’ origins and has been the place for violence and protests, in most towns it is a peaceful and community bonding event.

We all enjoyed the colourful banners, the powerful bands, the variety of uniforms and the beautiful horses (Clydesdale, I believe).

It was great to see the bands so unified in their drumming, fluting, piping and walking. To see the young and old together – a man from Moneydig congregation (David McAleese) was playing the flute in his 74th ‘Twelfth’ and there were children no older than six helping with the banners, clashing cymbals, or tossing batons.

Whatever the initial reason for the celebration, I believe the majority of the people love to see the unity in the procession within the diversity. We long to see unity in the world – we like that they are all marching the same path, they are following their leader, they are playing, walking or riding as a demonstration of their ‘oneness’.

In the short worship service that took place in the field before the bands marched the streets of Garvagh, there were strong words spoken by a Minister who pointed to Christ as the King. Also, the centrality of the Scriptures was reaffirmed. Although there were few who were listening to the Word of God and joining in the Christian hymns, there was an effort to take the opportunity to point to our Lord as the One who could bring us together in peace. I am so thankful for the experiences that our family has had to see the love of God in so many of our new acquaintances. May God continue to call those who are seeking peace and a sense of purpose in what can be confusing times. May Christians never cease to look for ways to point to the hope we find in Jesus Christ.           – Tim Bruneau

Niagara Falls

Psalm 46 God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

The raw power and thunderous sound of the Niagara Falls was something to behold as we stood before them today (Wednesday 18th July). As I approached the falls from upstream of the river Niagara my first thoughts were ‘what’s so special about this place?’

The Niagara river appears like any other fast flowing river, it has several weirs creating a sense of power, but nothing out of the ordinary. The only hint of what is to come is the large plume of spray rising into the sky which then falls as rain on the footpaths and the roar of the falling water.

Once the crest of the falls has been reached that sense of being underwhelmed is washed away as quickly as the river disappears over the crest.

That sense of power which can be observed from the top of the falls is nothing to the power experienced at the bottom of the falls. We took a boat trip up the Niagara river to the base of the falls. Instantly I was struck by the height and noise of the falls. The plume of mist appears to rise into the sky in such a way as it becomes indistinguishable from the clouds. There is water everywhere, below, above and all around as spray soaked everyone on the boat. There was a sense of power and might such as I have never experienced before.

Watching the falls, I couldn’t help but think of Psalm 46, therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. It appears that the mountains really do tremble at the swelling of the waters, our tour guide told us the falls have receded over 11km due to erosion.

While the falls themselves were majestic, the journey there was not. Driving in on the wrong side of the road in a strange car and roads has been stressful to say the least. At times it felt as though the waters were sweeping over me, it wasn’t only the mountains that were trembling, I was doing my fair share!

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

While the falls demonstrate immense power, it is nothing to the peace of God.

I certainly need to learn the lesson that the peace of God is greater than the power of this world. Trusting in God means remembering who he is and what he has done and trusting God to bring this peace to our lives.

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

If Niagara has taught me anything it is the need to ‘Be still, and know that I am God.


Learning from the past

Yesterday, (Friday 13th July), Julia, Robin, Jacob and I visited the Black Creek Pioneer Village in Toronto. For those reading this back home in Northern Ireland, Black Creek Pioneer Village is very like the Folk park at Cultra or the Ulster American Folk park in Omagh. It is a look back into Canadian history, which means it is also a look back into Irish history because so much of Canada has been shaped by both British Imperialism and Irish Emigration.

One of the Pioneer Village exhibits is a house and shop owned by a shoemaker from Fermanagh called Davy Flynn who emigrated during the potato famine.

In Davy Flynn’s house we learned how Canada was divided up among the pioneer settlers. It was noticeable that each plot was incredibly uniform when viewed on the map. It was also noticeable how the native indigenous people were simply removed from their land to make way for settlers.

Few would argue at the injustice of someone’s homeland being taken away and whole groups of people being forcibly relocated, away from the rivers and hunting grounds that were a way of life and means of survival for generations. Today Canada is trying to acknowledge that wrongs were committed, and apologies have been issued to the indigenous people. There is an attempt to retell Canada’s history in a way that includes not only the story of the settlers but the people who were already here.

History is important not only because we can learn about the past but because we must learn from the past.

While at Black Creek Pioneer Village we also visited another example of Irish influence on Canada, a Presbyterian Church and the accompanying manse.

The church was built in 1856, Moneydig Presbyterian Church was built in 1836. This set me thinking about how the church I worship in is older than the church I visited in the Canadian Museum!

I couldn’t help but feel a little sad at the thought of a church building being reduced to a museum piece. Surely something somewhere has gone wrong, surely the church was meant for more than just a nostalgic look back at the past. The church should be a vibrant living entity that points to a vibrant wonderful future, not a nostalgic look at the past.

10 So he took me in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and he showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God and sparkled like a precious stone—like jasper as clear as crystal. Revelation 21: 10-11

The question then is how does the church regain her vision of the future?

Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

The church will only ever regain her vision for the future when we regain God’s vision for us. If the church is to become more than just a museum piece, then we must humble ourselves before God in prayer seeking his face. This is more than just calling another prayer meeting, it is about us as individuals and families praying together. This is the lifeblood of the church. This is how we learn from the past and prevent the church becoming part of the past.

Moneydig to Toronto

Niagara Falls 

A Canadian view of the twelfth