a visit to the Ulster museum

I visited the Ulster Museum just last weekend. I am never disappointed and probably go about once per year. There were 2 exhibitions which were new to me and which stick in my mind.

The first is mythical, not real but fires the imagination. Suspended from the ceiling are 2 huge dragons – complete with horns and tongues and eyes and pointed tails – apparently made out of what looks like twisted twigs. They are a striking display and I have to admit I love to sit down and watch “how to train your dragon” with my son – usually at his bedtime on iplayer on my iPad.

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The second is real, actually painfully real. A vivid reminder of human nature.

The room is respectfully quiet, there may even be some tears. On the walls are beautiful paintings and the pained expressions evident in the eyes and the facial expressions jump at you, the moment you walk in the room.

Each painting is a real story – someone who was caught up in the Troubles here in Northern Ireland and lost a loved one. There is a brief description of the cruel events on the wall beside each painting. You feel compelled to walk slowly around the room, reading as you go. It’s nearly intrusive, on each person’s pain. Colin Davidson, the artist, has done an amazing job.

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But this weekend in Paris there is more pain and madness. As there was on 9/11 or Omagh or earlier this year in Paris, and the list is endless. At times like this comments appear on social media like prayforparis and I think we should. Everything seems to be changing to French colours to show support. It’s just as important we pray for ourselves and that we resist the temptation to see a particular culture or faith or dress or ethnicity or skin colour as anything to do with this -that we don’t add our own prejudice to the mounting problem, that we remember that all right minded people are horrified.

Also that we understand it. Not to justify it (because that can’t be done) but to move towards solving it. Otherwise they win.

In the madness I believe that you have to listen very carefully – for a still small voice because God is still with us as he was in 1 Kings 18 with Elijah, ultimately in control, despite everything. This madness is frightening and disturbing but nothing has really changed.

the zoo

this week I was off for a few days over half term and took my son to Belfast zoo, something he has been asking to do for a while. My childhood memories of any zoo is of a smelly, damp place full of unhappy looking animals in cramped enclosures. Well,things have changed for the better and this collection of shots tell a different story…

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