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Tempus fugit and it is nearly two months since a post last appeared on this blog. Christmas with family and the travel to and from, followed by New Year, are good excuses, but the main issue has been workload. Some folk would say that I am a perfectionist who can’t stop working, and while it is true that I like to see a job done well, the thing I want to do most is stop working. It has been a long haul since I first commenced full time employment in 1973 and to be honest I would like a rest. Or one of those sabbatical thingies that ministers get. I am not a workaholic perfectionist. I’d really like the chance to be lazy for a day or two.

The truth is that you simply cannot tell a book by its cover. Caveat emptor to quote another Latin phrase. To be honest again I was a dismal student of Latin and the last ever comment on a school report from a Latin teacher was one word: ‘Unimpressive!’ Thank you, Mr Phillips. You could have scarred me for life, but you didn’t.

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The Clayton Hotel, Sligo. Formerly St Columba’s Lunatic Asylum

I was confronted with a good example of not telling a book by its cover while working in Ireland last week. On this occasion it was more a case of not telling a hotel by its walls. The Clayton Hotel in Sligo has the external appearance of a castle, and that is what my Irish colleague thought it had once been. The receptionist knew different. She told me that the building was constructed as a lunatic asylum opening in 1855 and continuing to house inmates until 1992! She also gave me a printed history and it appears that St Columba’s Lunatic Asylum was very different to the norm. It seems that the doctor in charge back in 1883 wanted ‘people who were usually confined, locked-up or even bound to feel free.’ While the doctor’s methods are said to have worked they did not change the view of those outside the asylum of those inside – ‘they were still social outcasts and the people who cared for them were little better.’

In the case of the asylum it seems that even if the book changes the cover remains the same. I find that challenging because as a follower of Jesus I know that I am expected to change not once at the point of conversion, but daily as I do my best to walk alongside Jesus in the hope that I will become more like Him. Now if walking with Jesus is rubbing off on me then the cover should be changing as well as the book. Shouldn’t it?

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16 The Message.)