Wind and Rocks

As expected, we’ve had a lovely week here in Ireland.

After saying goodbye to 40 of our long lost Journeymen friends at the retreat (but only after agreeing to meet again in two years) we headed east, bound for Belfast. It was a very cheap airline, Thomas Cook, but the plane was clean and new.  We’d never experienced the A330LDL, which has the bathrooms downstairs! That made for a roomier upstairs, if you didn’t mind negotiating a spiral staircase during turbulence. Nice experience, beautiful flight.

We arrived in Belfast to a charming B&B, then headed out to meet the man I mentioned last week, the father of a friend we met during a tour of Campus Crusade’s filming of the Jesus video.

Charlie is an 85 year-old retired salmon fisherman, living right on the shores of his beloved Port Rush. His home looks like a restored lighthouse, complete with a wall-to-wall view of the raging North Sea and a massive pair of military grade binoculars to keep tabs on everything. As the incoming waves threatened to sweep us away, we watched seals riding the surf, then fed his pet Herring Seagulls that come by daily.  Finally we settled in around his peat fueled fireplace for a cuppa.

What an interesting man!  Unfortunately although Charlie’s life has been weathered with a good humor and an absolute gift for telling a story, he doesn’t share the views of his fourth daughter (whom we met in Florida). In his own words, “She’s gone a bit balmy with religion.”

We pray that our visit softened him somewhat to the faith his daughter embraces, and that one day soon he’ll understand the reason she’s gone this way.

Inspired by Charlie’s stories, we set out in earnest to see the sights of Ireland.  It felt good to be back on the left side of the road, even if it was quite a bit narrower that what we were used to. We arrived at our second B&B to find that somewhere we’d crossed from Northern Ireland (England) into The Republic of Ireland.  I rather thought the ‘crossing’ would have been more dramatic, but I’m coming to think the border may now exist mainly in people’s hearts (where we’re finding that it exists with quite a strong conviction).

OK, enough travel dialogue.  Here’s the thing that made us stop and think.

We’ve especially enjoyed the rolling hills covered with lush green grass with lots of varied livestock.   Every field is bordered either with either thick hedge rows or stone fences.  The fields are quite small as well.

It was explained to us that the fields are the product of ‘as many rocks as you have to remove to plow in your immediate space……i.e.; the more rocks, the larger field you can build a fence to encompass.  At least that’s how it went before things got civilized and people started using surveyors.

The rock walls have a real charm, like picture postcards. But I have to say that a big part of the charm is the haphazard way the rocks are stacked…. Dare I say sloppy?

But it’s by design, we were told. The walls are “dry stacked”, without mortar, to allow the wind to blow right through the cracks. Why? You ask. Because if the wall was a solid buttress, the wind would eventually prevail and blow it over.

As Tony says, “Gotta be a sermon there, right?”  Perhaps it’s a weak one, especially with all the admonitions in the Bible to ‘build your house on the solid rock’ etc.  But gaps? To let the wind thru?

Ireland is two things, GREEN (lots of rain which thankfully we missed) and WIND.  We visited the ‘Cliffs of Moher” where on average at least one person a week falls or is blown off to their death, never to be recovered.

The ‘winds’ of our life sometimes feel like they will blow us over.  The ‘rocks’ we find in our field sometimes feel more like a curse than a chance to expand our boundaries of experience.

BUT if we can arrange and stack those life problems and let the gaps take the gusts, perhaps we can have a secure life, rich and green.

And here’s a Bible verse for you to chew on.  Nehemiah 4: 2 and 3. It references the Ammonites discussing the Jewish rebuild of the Temple.

“He spoke in the presence of his brothers and the wealthy men of Samaria and said, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Are they going to restore it for themselves? Can they offer sacrifices? Can they finish in a day? Can they revive the stones from the dusty rubble even the burned ones? Now Tobiah the Ammonite was near him and he said, “Even what they are building– if a fox should jump on it, he would break their stone wall down!”

How often were the Chosen People of God mocked by people who just didn’t get it that God was on the Jews side. Walls are walls and they serve a purpose, usually to be strong, even if it means letting the wind blow thru instead of knocking them down.

May the Road rise up to meet you, may the wind be always at your back……..I think that’s how the Irish Blessing goes….

Till next week, which should find us in a warmer place, Marsha

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