What else would you do on a train?

He reached for the soap, wincing as it slipped out of his hand, automatically stretching further but his ribcage was fit to burst at even this small movement. He rubbed the spot gently, wondering as he showered if it was bruised or broken, cracked or shattered. Each small stroke brought new sensations of pain. What was he going to do? It had finally happened, the connection of foot on bone, he had been waiting for it forever. But now that it had, he was confused as to his next move.

There were mitigating circumstances, there always were. He remembered his own occasions of volatile temper raging through him, the only release would be the explosion in his knuckles as he punched something or someone. The time Gerry Downing had teased him about his hair colour in the pub, the surprised expression that hung on his face as he was launched over the bar. Yes he could remember each and every time.

But he had never hit her. They had been going out for over a year now and he had been sure to keep his temper in check. The guys in the bar were always riling him but he began to count to ten, if she were with him, some of them had copped to this and upped their game whenever she was with him. They and he knew, this was the one. The keeper. He just had to keep his cool long enough to get the ring on her finger and then it didn’t matter. He was a cop, he knew domestics were never investigated and maybe, just maybe she would behave herself all the time and there’d be no need to teach her right from wrong.

Last night, in the bar, the guys had just gone over the top. Mocking his clothes, his hair and when they started in on his after shave. Billy Mac, did a pirouette and said in the campest of voices, “lovely cologne, what is that a hint of lilies or lavender?”

He jumped up, strode over to Billy and was about to grab his neck when…

She called his name and he turned. She was slightly squatting, almost a split squat and all in a second was up delivering a front kick to his breast bone and then into a power side kick, from the left. That’s what threw him. Her front kick had been on her left leg with the right outstretched reaching his body. But how did she get that on the floor before beginning the side kick, and when he thought of the power behind it, he winced.

She walked out of the bar, head held high, legs like a gazelle. At the door, she turned, bowed to the ensemble and on rising, raised one arm in the air in a fist and shouted, “for Michelle, you gutless wonder.”

The men gathered around him, it was unfair they said, one said, they were only ribbing. This caused a wave of giggles, but they knew the score. It was only banter and the physicality of it all, just lads having a laugh, blowing off a bit of steam. But Michelle.

Michelle Grainger had lived in the village her entire life, never leaving it for the bigger towns like most of them. She drank in the bar and worked in the shop, her life was simple and her dream was to settle down with her handsome boyfriend, the policeman from town, who came every Tuesday to air the old Garda station and give out the odd ticket for busted back lights. Garda Brennan, AJ to his mates, loved the attention from this yokel girl and spun her a line for a year or two but he had a fiance in town and was not going to be shackelled to Michelle no matter what. The what happened though and she arrived at the station one Tuesday morning to meet him and give him the good news, she was expecting.

She did not get the conversation she wanted as he suggested it wasn’t his and called her names. She didn’t understand, everyone she met that day she told her story, and it didin’t make it right. Meanwhile AJ had contacted his mate on the force, asking his advice. His friend had said, don’t worry, he’d sort it out for him. There was a young hoon, Backers Mackie, he was on the edge of everything and about to move into a bigger league. He needed taking down but it was proving impossible to tie him to anything. Now, he was in Mountjoy on remand, being tried with Michelle Grainger’s murder, he had no alibi, his prints were found at the scene. The village, scared witless by the thought of a murder on their doorstep were all to eager to place Backers in the area on the night in question. Garda Brennan was an absolute rock of support to the family and neighbours. He talked about the shock of her news two days before but how he had bought a ring and was going to propose at the weekend. He was as white as flour throughout the whole affair. He explained to his fiance how this local girl had been stalking him and thought he was her boyfriend telling the whole village. She was so understanding, they waited a year to get married just to allow Michelle’s family some peace. They were invited to the wedding but it was still, for them, too soon but they wished the couple all the best. AJ had moved across country, doing something in vice in the city.

He actually hadn’t meant to kill Michelle, just talk to her, bundle some money at her and get her on a boat to England, but she was so adamant. She wanted the white dress and the marquee, she had even planned the music for the first dance. She was either obsessed or had little to occupy her mind.

He was still in the shower, letting the water cascade over his rib cage, in all his years of thumping and kicking people, no one had ever landed one on him. He thought back to last night. How he had crumpled in agony. This couldn’t go on, his rages were getting more ferocious, he was under investigation at work, things were beginning to unravel and now this. Michelle, that had been two years ago, Backers was locked up, albeit he hadn’t been to trial yet. There were pre trial hearings with the barristers and a growing swell of people wondering why he was claiming to be innocent. Backers had begun to help the Gardai with their enquiries into a number of unsolved cases around the area and was admitting to the dealing and GBH of more than a few people in town. So why wouldn’t he cop to the murder.

He looked in the mirror, “Thomas James Cronin, it is all getting a bit messy,” as he said this to himself he smirked. Understatement of the century. He winced again as took a deep breath. His phone beeped. The message read, “Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief. Psalm 143. This might be your answer, mate”

It had been sent anonymously. On his way to work, a guy tried to give him a leaflet as he said, “Repent, the end is near.” At break time, a few of the younger guards were reciting poetry at each other, trying to remember the words from their leaving. They were on the cusp of their thirties and realising their youth was gone, were reminiscing about school and the dreaded exams. Julie Tolley raised her voice in the hushed canteen,

“I have lived in important places, times
When great events were decided, who owned
That half a rood of rock, a no-man’s land
Surrounded by our pitchfork-armed claims.
I heard the Duffys shouting “Damn your soul!”
And old McCabe stripped to the waist, seen
Step the plot defying blue cast-steel –
“Here is the march along these iron stones.”
That was the year of the Munich bother. Which
Was more important? I inclined
To lose my faith in Ballyrush and Gortin
Till Homer’s ghost came whispering to my mind.
He said: I made the Iliad from such
A local row. Gods make their own importance.


The whole canteen burst into applause, none of the others had quoted an entire poem, just a line here and there.

“Way to go, Jules.”

“Good one, Trolley Girl.”

Nicknames were common, some stuck. His was “Moanin’ Cronin,” he didn’t care one way or the other. Poems in the station was a good distraction from his mind in turmoil. He looked up and saw the Inspector enter.

“Sir, I would like to meet with you today, if possible, I mean if you are not busy. I mean I know you’re busy but can you fit me in, sir?”

“Sergeant Cronin, I can see you tomorrow at nine am, I have things to do today.”

“Yes sir, thank you sir. Right nine o’clock tomorrow. Sir.”

He walked to river after work, he looked into the water, looking for answers, he only saw his reflection. It’s down to me then, to do what is right. He smarted at the pain as he walked slowly home. He got over another hurdle, he hadn’t jumped off the bridge as so many other tortured souls had. The bookshop was still open, it wasn’t a place he would normally be found.

“Hello Sergeant, how may I help you today?”

“I got a message this morning and I want to look it up, do you have a, a, a Bible?”

“Yes of course, which translation?”

“I dunno.”


“I guess so.”

“Try this.”

The woman thrust a book in his hand.

“The Message?”

“It’s popular with the young ones and er, um, people not used to opening a bible. What is the passage?”

“Psalm,” he pronounced it p-salm

She smiled warmly, took the Bible back and turned to Psalms. “There are 150 psalms, do you have the chapter?”

“Oh yes, sure, let me look,” he took out his phone, “1 4 3.”

“Here, you read away, no rush.”

“Thank you,” and he sat on the chair and read:

 Listen to this prayer of mine, God;
pay attention to what I’m asking.
Answer me—you’re famous for your answers!
Do what’s right for me.
But don’t, please don’t, haul me into court;
not a person alive would be acquitted there.

The enemy hunted me down;
he kicked me and stomped me within an inch of my life.
He put me in a black hole,
buried me like a corpse in that dungeon.
I sat there in despair, my spirit draining away,
my heart heavy, like lead.
I remembered the old days,
went over all you’ve done, pondered the ways you’ve worked,
Stretched out my hands to you,
as thirsty for you as a desert thirsty for rain.

Hurry with your answer, God!
I’m nearly at the end of my rope.
Don’t turn away; don’t ignore me!
That would be certain death.
If you wake me each morning with the sound of your loving voice,
I’ll go to sleep each night trusting in you.
Point out the road I must travel;
I’m all ears, all eyes before you.
Save me from my enemies, God—
you’re my only hope!
Teach me how to live to please you,
because you’re my God.
Lead me by your blessed Spirit
into cleared and level pastureland.

Keep up your reputation, God—give me life!
In your justice, get me out of this trouble!
In your great love, vanquish my enemies;
make a clean sweep of those who harass me.
And why? Because I’m your servant.

His eyes were damp as he finished. “I will take it.”

“Okay, that will be twenty five euros, Sergeant. Say do you need to talk to someone. I mean I don’t want to pry, but you seem different today.”

“Do I know you?”

“We went to the Tec together, years ago now. But you seem beat today, I hope you don’t mind me saying. It’s just you have always commanded the space you were in. But now, well you seem to have shrunk, ever so slightly.”

“Stress, I guess. Oh sorry,” he smiled, “they were quoting Kavanagh at work today maybe it is rubbing off.”

“Ha, ha, Kavanagh never rhymed. Seriously TJ, I know a guy, he is a good guy and he is strictly confidential. He could meet you tonight?” She left it as a question in the air as he got out money to pay for it.


“Just round the corner, in the wee chapel, he’s a minister, well a lay minister, but he is a good listener and he’ll be there now. He cleans the kitchen on a Tuesday night.”

He walked around the corner and through the open door. He saw the guy drying dishes at the sink. “Hello,” he called, “I think I am in trouble. Can you help? …”

Withered and shrivelled

There is a song by The Who called “The Seeker” which has a guy looking for something – the key, but he doesn’t find it. The lyrics are that mix of words that can only be made through the haze of alcohol and I am sure when first written made total sense.

In this world there are a lot of people seeking, thirsting for more of those warm fuzzy feelings and happy clappiness. The seek here and there, in the new ages of crystals and dreamcatchers, in all the different religions from the self, inward looking, polytheistic: anything that distracts from fulfilling our true purpose on earth.

“You can’t see the wood for the trees”

Many people can’t see the only way to God is through Jesus because they are confronted by so many different ways of doing religion. But they are dehydrated, parched – thirsty but drinking the wrong thing that does not quench the thirst. When I eat food from a takeaway, I have a huge thirst because my salt intake has dramatically increased. What I do next can either increase or decrease my thirst. If I drink carbonated drinks I just get more thirsty and uncomfortable but if I drink tea or water, my thirst is quenched. I know this and yet sometimes I imbibe fizzy nonsense instead of sensible stillness.

Today the question was posed – “What do I covet?” and in all honesty I didn’t think of anything. If the question had been “What do I thirst for?” I would have answered how I wanted more than anything to grow closer to God.

This morning I became overcome with how much I was loved by God, it was not ideal in terms of timing, but I have learned that God surprises me with his intense presence, and it makes everything else fade into the background.

My cup overflows with joy, as I feel the intensity of His love, I was reading a book today in which a young girl was recalling a few years earlier when she was last hugged. Being aware of God’s presence, for me, makes me think of an enveloping hug. The path is clearing and I am beginning to make out the wood, each individual tree that lines the path and every pebble and stone seems clearer in the light of His love.

God—you’re my God!
    I can’t get enough of you!
I’ve worked up such hunger and thirst for God,
    traveling across dry and weary deserts.

Psalm 63:1-3


O Lord,

Thank you for this day that you made, for special friendships, for fellowship, for people who care, for accepting their care. But most of all thank you Lord for your care and love, for your hessed that transforms and changes everything. Lord help me as I begin this something new this week and thank you for giving me this opportunity, amen.

Teach me

When I was little and sick I was given a weird concoction to make me feel better: hot water, food colouring, milk and sugar. Blue, green, red, yellow or pink tea would be dispensed as if this drink was medicine especially made by the fairies. Once when one of my boys got stung by a whole bunch of wasps, I dipped a cotton ball into white vinegar and dabbed each sting whilst I spoke soothing words. Whether it was the vinegar or the words I am not sure but he felt a whole pile of better afterwards. It was witnessed by a local boy and a few years later, he arrived at my door with his harassed mum wanting the fairy medicine. He had been stung and remembered my tending to the care of my son. A few weeks ago my son got stung by a wasp in church. I didn’t notice and nobody else did either, because he didn’t say anything or make any movement. When he told me afterwards I asked him why not.

“I was praying to God at the time, I figured he would take of it.”

I learn much from my sons about suffering, endurance and perseverance. It is not a passive acceptance or indifference, more an active engagement in faith.

Do not worry about clothes on your back,

The Lord has got your back.

Do not worry about money in the bank,

The Lord will provide, oh yes

Sometimes it takes a simple wasp sting to startle a person, me, to look at my faith, to search my heart. How do I want God to teach me today? How will I hear his voice? What will I learn today from each person I meet, from God, from my family? What situations will I face and how will I react?

This special day, this day the Lord made. What surprises are in for me? How can I show Jesus to everyone I meet?

Do not worry

22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 Consider the ravens: they do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life[b]? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

27 ‘Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you – you of little faith! 29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.


O Lord

Help me be the fruit of the Spirit in this day. Teach me new things and new ways today. Help me move forward in my faith, my walk with you. Give me strength as I say farewell to the second born. Thank you Lord for your healing touch in his life. Amen

Ringfencing boundaries

I was watching a woman stand in a room, she was about to lose her job. She was contemplating her future and reflecting on her past. She looked at peace, ready to receive the news of her departure. I wondered as I watched her, would I be so dignified?

‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’

When Jesus went up the mountainside by himself, he was placing a border around his quiet time. His disciples respected this boundary, as did the other people following him. The example of Jesus has been much written about, the way he went off on his own to pray, to spend time alone with his father.

There is a time in the night, in rural areas, when the dogs have stopped barking and before the birds begin singing when absolute silence reigns.

I love this time, especially in the winter. The frost is about to start sparkling on the grass, and when it is a clear night the stars twinkle as the nursery rhyme. It becomes one of those moments when heaven and earth kiss. The northern hemisphere is breathing more slowly like a giant sleeping, the heartbeat reaching its nadir.

Jesus stayed on the mountainside until just before dawn. As he walked towards the disciples he did so as the sun was beginning to rise.

‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’

Spending time alone, in the elements of winter, reminds me to take courage, to not be afraid of the dark, because he said he’d never leave me – he is there with me.

I am especially privileged to live in a place with hedgehogs and other nocturnal creatures and sometimes in the night As I sit wrapped in a blanket on my step, one of these creatures scurries or hurries and makes me jump, but within seconds my heart rate returns to normal and I climb back in my skin and I breathe in and breathe out slowly. Spending time with the Father. It is precious and special and needs ringfencing

‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’


Matthew 14:22-27

Jesus walks on the water

22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’


Peering in the rim of the cup

I was so tired last night, two sick sons, an injured husband, I had seen ninety patients over the previous two days, led two bible studies and a local fellowship group. I poured myself onto the sofa at ten thirty, after all the chores, emails, texts and phone calls and stared at my picture.

I have two paintings on my walls and a bunch of random photos of my family. The first picture is by Declan S, it is his interpretation of God’s view of creation, he used light & colour and brushstrokes to create a sphere bursting in from nothing. It is a powerful meditation tool that I have used for a few years now.

The second picture, “Lost in Worship,” by some person used shape and colour to build a picture that can be touched, the waterfall of Spirit, falling afresh. It danced in central vision. The colours bounced in and out of focus and I chilled out and prayed for an extended time.

Much later as I was getting ready to retire for the night, I realised I had forgotten to do the daily ritual of cup looking. The cup sat looking at me, instead. Reproach. A few years ago I would have stopped and done the cup looking ritual because I had promised to do this thing each day. But that was years ago, now in a new freedom I don’t follow the rules in ritualistic fashion, so I left the cup on its table and went to bed.

I awoke this morning, I wish I could say refreshed and ready for the day, but the last few days have been too busy, too distracting and I therefore woke with a banging headache, heavy eyes and a leaden body. I sat drinking my tea when the cup caught my eye. Yes, I will cup look now. Now is exactly the right time to peer into the cup:

The introduction was on the nose, it talked about doing rituals because it was the appointed time and getting into the busyness of spirituality rather than the being. I have learned to let go of the rules of time & space, I am free and when I imagine my soul it is dancing through a meadow of poppies with arms high in abandonment – complete surrender. My inner being is completely surrendered to the Lord, there are no obstacles between me and the living God I worship.

Creating space, to allow the presence of God to be felt, to allow the loving energy flow through me, to my fingertips as I write this, no ritual, just hessed flowing in and flowing out.


O Lord,

What an amazing God I have, a God who loves so much, A God who dwells with me, a God who is interested in every part of my life, a God who is in the details of my daily chores, helping me fend off temptation, helping me fend off the devil. O Lord thank you for every blessing this day, for the eyes, heavy earlier, now fully alert to your prompting, for the body, leaden an hour ago, now full of your loving energy, ready to engage, for my head, that was aching a short time ago, now bouncing with ideas and focused on you alone. Thank you Lord for all you do in my life and others, Amen

Reflection from the bottom of a cup

Resting in God-

In bible study tonight I posed the question, “How do we slice of the ears of those around us?” Taken out of context this might seem a really odd question, but within the group, not only did it make sense to me to ask, but the participants all had an opinion…

They knew how we do it, how we in churches all over this country do it, perhaps even the world.

The following question drew sharp intakes of breath, as we pondered and reflected on how beautiful it could be if we made a conscious, prayerful decision to put our swords down and stop it.

Tonight as I stared into my cup, this fragile little cup that I used to drink specially made tea that my mother prepared for me. I thought about the indwelling of God in me. How lovely is his dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts to me.

But is the dwelling house lovely if it is my heart? What in my heart needs to change to make it lovely? What areas of my life still need some repair work, or demolition work?

My heart is not a Disney model of a heart, it has been broken many times, it has endured all kinds of assault. This week is such a poignant memorial of a year that never was. The months of back breaking wound care, the hours of weeping when no one else was around. I was inflicting pain on my child, and yes it was to make him better, yes it had to be done, but I was not strong enough to inflict without being concerned that this would never end. The year that was lost, that we mourned for the whole of September last year, will never return. But the year that came in its place was so much better.

I learned many things, one that I was skilled in being a mother of children with disabilities but I had no skills in being a mother of a sick child. I could not have done the things that had to be done without prayer, without the presence of God in my every movement, in every dab of hydrogen peroxide and vials of betadine. As I passed tissues to wipe the eyes of the contorted body, I returned to inflict searing pain. I argued with God throughout, I had people telling me this was sent to test me. ME! My child lying in agony was all about me. I don’t think so. And I didn’t want to follow a god that would do that. Others said it was the devil’s work to stop me in exploring my call. ME! Let the devil win, rather than inflict any more pain.

But it was neither of these things. It was a condition, part of the syndrome, nothing to do with me. The test was finding the time in all the dressings and baths to spend time alone with God.

Some days I barely managed it, others were filled with space, to explore and experience the living God. At some point in the year, a vacation was taken, it felt like God had left his dwelling place within me, I was bereft, set adrift with no anchor. But God had not left me, and I learned to turn the dial and retune as we sang a different duet together.

In the small hours of the morning when there is no sound in the house and I become aware of my breathing in and out, my pulse racing and then slowing down, racing then slowing down. As each heart beat gets slower reaching down past 50bpm, that is when I am most aware of His presence. As sleep is about to overcome me, and I experience the cossetting of a Loving Father, the embrace of a friend, and the caress of the comforter. My cup runneth over with joy.

Psalm 84

How lovely is your dwelling-place,
    Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
    for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
    for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home,
    and the swallow a nest for herself,
    where she may have her young –
a place near your altar,
    Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
    they are ever praising you.

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
    whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
    they make it a place of springs;
    the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
They go from strength to strength,
    till each appears before God in Zion.

Hear my prayer, Lord God Almighty;
    listen to me, God of Jacob.
Look on our shield, O God;
    look with favour on your anointed one.

10 Better is one day in your courts
    than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
    than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
    the Lord bestows favour and honour;
no good thing does he withhold
    from those whose way of life is blameless.

12 Lord Almighty,
    blessed is the one who trusts in you.