A passion for pie

Some people dig a fork into the pie but are too lazy to raise it to their mouth. MSG Proverbs 19:24

The sluggard buries his hand in the dish and will not even bring it back to his mouth. ESV

I have read and discarded this verse many times.

I can assure you that if there is pie to be had I AM IN! Lets talk about pie.

1621614705_9d532f2d58I love steak and Guinness pie with chunks of torn beef, chicken and ham pie with creamy sauce, mince pie like your granny used to make, shepherds pie and cottage pie with mashed potato perfectly crisped on top, (who knows the difference?). Oh please don’t forget Melton Mowbray Pork Pies, a delight which fueled my achieving the Four Peaks a few years ago. Pukka Pies with the obligatory mushy peas are another midlands specialty. Scotch pies with their delicious over-sized crust are heavenly and one of many reasons to go visit Scotland this year. To this day pies remain the BEST reason to go to a football match in England. Please somebody invent the Bacon Pie.

….. and now for dessert!

2606707419_53cc00f380Our American cousins get confused when we talk about pies with meat in them… its all about sweetness. Seriously if ever there was a reason for traversing the continental US. You could start with key lime pie in Florida swing by for an Apple Pie in the Big Apple, sidestep and tuck into a Shoofly pie in the burgh, pecan pie from every place imaginable, before getting hot and sweaty with a Mississippi Mud Pie. You’ll find peach pie, mixed berry pie, blueberry pie, plum pie, peanut butter pie, banoffee pie, hot cherry pie, rhubarb pie, a personal favorite apple and raspberry pie and of course pumpkin pie. After that road trip we will be entitled to sing “Who ate all the pies?”

It is unimaginable to me that someone might be sat down, presented with any of these sublime pies, dig their fork in the pie and then fail to taste and enjoy. Right now at the very thought my lips are watering.

If you have read the first post in the Proverb to Prayer series you will remember the challenge to face up to these proverbs to let them speak truth to our lives and to allow them to spark a conversation with God about how he plans on transforming our lives.

Look around you what do you see?

As I write I sit in our kitchen where a few months back I redecorated walls floor and ceiling. I moved a radiator to allow a new sofa and installed a new dishwasher. Yet despite my short lived focus we still have no kickboards under the cupboards and a bare window at one end of the room. Those who know me know I am one of the many men who fail to finish DIY projects.

Rewind a year, what has God said?

Proverbs seriesHow has God spoken through His word or other ways in the last months? What ‘pies’ has God set before you? Have you received and consumed. Have you acted, prayed about and shared this sustenance or did you say that looks nice and leave the word of God intact, untouched?

In what ways has Gods sustenance provided you with faith to act?

Steak & Guinness pie Image: Some rights reserved by yashima

Blueberry pie Image: Some rights reserved by thebittenword.com

Featured Image: Some rights reserved by garryknight

Satisfied? Proverbs 13:25

An appetite for good brings much satisfaction, but the belly of the wicked always wants more. Proverbs 13:25 MSG

I have thought about appetites and desires quite a bit since reading a little about St Ignatius of Loyola and his practice of guiding people to discern between desires that lead towards God and those that lead away.  He taught that those desires that lead towards God are in fact graces (gifts from God) and those that lead away, temptations.  However this proverb forces us to address the issue of satisfaction and it’s source.

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What is satisfaction? A simple definition is ‘The fulfillment or gratification of a desire, need, or appetite; fulfillment of a need or want’* Yet this proverb suggests that true satisfaction is a result not of the fulfillment of a desire but is connected in some way to the object of that desire.

How satisfied are you?  Are you content or do you find yourself always frustrated, wanting more or wanting things to change.  I wrote these few lines while listening to the famous hymn “It is well with my soul”

“When my life is in the flow of an unstoppable river of peace, then I am satisifed.

When storms destroy all that I have, then I am satisfied

Whatever I have or have not, I am satisfied

When all my flaws, failings, deceptions and betrayals are destroyed then I am satisfied”

Proverbs series

It turns out that our satisfaction is not dependent on getting the object of our desires but in the nature of the object of our desires.

But Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

Featured Image: Some rights reserved by jessiejacobson

12 Social Media (G+) Proverbs

These dozen proverbs are written as advice on how to live well in the digital world of Google + and other social media networks.  They are inspired by The Book of Proverbs chapter 18.   Enjoy!

  1. Any friend/follower/circle dude who is interested only in themselves is basically a ball of spit

Loners who care only for themselves spit on the common good. 18:1

  1. If you can’t listen, think and respond, you are basically just slobbering on your keyboard (tablet/phone)

Fools care nothing for thoughtful discourse; all they do is run off at the mouth. 18:2

  1. There are bucket-loads of crap posts but a few finely crafted gems

Many words rush along like rivers in flood, but deep wisdom flows up from artesian springs. 18:4

  1. A dumbass post starts pointess fights, HIT MUTE

The words of a fool start fights; do him a favor and gag him. 18:6

  1. In all seriousness, what you post changes who you are

Fools are undone by their big mouths; their souls are crushed by their words. 18:7

  1. Don’t learn to hit the mute button?  You will end up with a bellyache

Listening to gossip is like eating cheap candy; do you really want junk like that in your belly? 18:8

  1. Social media is a co-operative canvas, bad habits and lazy posts are ugly graffiti on top of inspired sketches

Slack habits and sloppy work are as bad as vandalism. 18:9

  1. You look stupid and rude when you comment without reading the post

 Answering before listening is both stupid and rude. 18:13

  1. Read carefully, if you are wise, the daily insight will stick

Wise men and women are always learning, always listening for fresh insights. 18:15

  1. Be generous with your comments, people will notice

A gift gets attention; it buys the attention of eminent people. 18:16

  1. Kind, friendly comments are as good as fresh fruit on a hot day

Words satisfy the mind as much as fruit does the stomach; good talk is as gratifying as a good harvest. 18:20

  1. When it comes down to it, life is really about people, wives and husbands, friends and family, boyfriends and girlfriends, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mums and dads, and all those other people you should be loving right now, including those on the other end of the internet connection.

Find a good spouse, you find a good life— and even more: the favor of God!…… Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family. 18:22&24

The Centre

Proverbs chapter 18 is practical wisdom for living life well.  It covers many subjects, marriage, friendship, work and much more.

Tucked away in the middle of this collection of pragmatic guidelines is a real odd ball. It’s simply out of place.  Or is it perfectly placed?  Here is 18:10

God’s name is a place of protection— good people can run there and be safe.

At the centre of life is the name and nature of God; All powerful, all knowing God who is home

Featured Image:  Some rights reserved by andrewrennie

10 ways to stop being a donkey

“Don’t be ornery like a horse or mule that needs bit and bridle to stay on track.”
God-defiers are always in trouble; God-affirmers find themselves loved every time they turn around.
Celebrate God. Sing together—everyone! All you honest hearts, raise the roof!  Ps 32:9-11 MSG

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  1. Don’t conspire to get your own way
  2. Stay on track because you love loving God and others
  3. Be generous in your attitudes not requiring correction
  4. Don’t believe you made it this far by yourself
  5. Look intently for God in your life and be thankful
  6. Enjoy the truth that you are loved, deeply loved by God
  7. Be happy about what God has done for you
  8. Get together with people who are loud mouthed about how amazing God is
  9. Don’t leave people out.  Invite them in
  10. Be whole-hearted it will blow the roof off.

How do you read the Book of Proverbs?

So I’ve been reading the book of Proverbs for the last while and have noticed a tendency to read them in a certain way.

How do you read Proverbs

Lets read a few proverbs from chapter 12 to illustrate what I have observed about myself.  Take a few moments, read each one carefully.

6- The words of the wicked kill; the speech of the upright saves.

8- A person who talks sense is honored; airheads are held in contempt.

13- The gossip of bad people gets them in trouble; the conversation of good people keeps them out of it.

15- Fools are headstrong and do what they like; wise people take advice.

16- Fools have short fuses and explode all too quickly; the prudent quietly shrug off insults.

23- Prudent people don’t flaunt their knowledge; talkative fools broadcast their silliness.

24- The diligent find freedom in their work; the lazy are oppressed by work.

Many of the proverbs in the Book of Proverbs identify 2 people; the wise man and the fool, the bad person and the good, the wicked and the upright.

Getting it wrong

Let’s get straight to the point – When I read the Book of Proverbs I invariably end up being the good guy!  Join me in a brief review.  In verse 6 above did you cast yourself in the role of the upright whose words save?  Go on have a look.  How about verse 8?  I cast myself as the bloke who talks sense, not the contemptuous airhead!  You?

If you are anything like me you cast yourself as the good guy every time.  Think about it, re-read them.

When I began to realise this I saw how utterly useless my reading of the Book of Proverbs actually is.  Unless I happen to read a relevant proverb while I am in the throws of asking myself whether I should listen to a particular person, my reading of this book is largely pointless.

Given this realization I am left with only 2 choices.  Either I am altogether awesome or I am reading the book of Proverbs completely wrongly.  Without any risk of false humility it’s fair to say that I need to rethink how I am reading this book.

How do we get it right?

So if this book is not about making me feel self righteous or convincing me that these ‘others’ are the people who should really be reading the book then how should I be reading the book?  How do others approach the book.

Warren W Wiersbe said this about the Book of Proverbs…

…we must not think that this wisdom is a set of rules or a collection of success formulas that anyone can occasionally apply as he or she pleases.  Following God’s wisdom is a full-time endeavor.

I think I agree with him.  Eugene Peterson in his study on Proverbs, commented;

“On earth as it is in heaven” is Jesus’ prayer.  “Wisdom” is the biblical term for this on-earth-as-it-is-in-heaven everyday living.

I have 3 personal responses to these comments:

  1. The Book of Proverbs exists to help us follow God and not just His wisdom.

We must be careful not to substitute wise living for living close to God.  It is possible to follow the Godly wisdom of the Proverbs, at least in part, while not seeking to follow God.  The truth is this wisdom will enhance your life, but God desires that we love Him with all of our heart, soul and mind.  Living well is not a replacement for loving God, it is a product of loving God.

We will know we are reading the Book of Proverbs correctly when the result is a heart turned towards God.

  1. The whole Book of Proverbs is about me!

The whole book is about me and it’s about you.  The truth is I fit both sides of the coin.  Fools are headstrong and do what they like; wise people take advice.  I do both!  This proverb is not to help you identify whether you are foolish or wise, it is like the tip of an arrow piercing us carried by the full weight of the whole Word of God.

In response I need to participate in the work God desires to do in me.  In response I need to stop using Proverbs as a comparison between myself and others.

  1. The Book of Proverbs is a guide to living a Kingdom of God life on earth

Yes, it is a book about life here on earth, it’s about relationships and work, money and honesty, prudence and good talk.  The Book of Proverbs is clearly more about earth than heaven, but I must never separate my daily life from my spiritual life.  The two are one. What I do everyday is as much my walk with God as how I worship or pray.

My response to this ‘practical’ wisdom ought to be prayerful.  Jesus prayed, “Your Kingdom come on Earth as it is in Heaven”, I too ought to read these Proverbs and prayerfully seek Gods help in living on Earth as in Heaven.

 

 

Proverbs series

So here’s the deal.  I’m gonna keep reading the Book of Proverbs, but I’m gonna be careful not to use them to compare myself to others. I’m gonna prayerfully ask God to help change my daily actions to reflect His Kingdom.

I would like to invite you to join me.  As I continue to read the Book of Proverbs I am going to write some prayers and share them on this blog, you are very welcome to write some prayers from Proverbs and share them in the comments below or email me at jonny@tentmaker.co.uk if you prefer.

Featured Image: Some rights reserved by yoshi87

Jesus Only (Part 2 of 2)

Glimpses of Infinity.

….Six days later, three of them saw that glory. Jesus took Peter and the brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain. His appearance changed from the inside out, right before their eyes. Sunlight poured from his face. His clothes were filled with light. Then they realized that Moses and Elijah were also there in deep conversation with him.   Matthew 17:1-6 MSG

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Memorializing the Moment.

Peter broke in, “Master, this is a great moment! What would you think if I built three memorials here on the mountain—one for you, one for Moses, one for Elijah?”

In life there are great moments.  Turning points, moments of clarity that change the direction of our life forever.  Deciding to say NO against the flow or saying YES to a call.  Moments of revelation, inspiration and understanding.  In this moment Peter must have felt like he understood everything past, present and future.  He had just witnessed a glimpse of the Glory of God reinforcing his long held belief in a coming Messiah.

Inspired, Peter races to build.  Peter, the rock, the one who believed, who knew Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  Peter the activist, the man of action acts swiftly to solidify his belief through action.

The Voice of Truth.

While he was going on like this, babbling, a light-radiant cloud enveloped them, and sounding from deep in the cloud a voice: “This is my Son, marked by my love, focus of my delight. Listen to him.”  When the disciples heard it, they fell flat on their faces, scared to death. But Jesus came over and touched them. “Don’t be afraid.”  When they opened their eyes and looked around all they saw was Jesus, only Jesus.

Peter’s activity get’s interrupted.  There is no rebuke for his enthusiastic activity nor is there an answer to his request.  Three things speak to me from this passage.

  1.  I am invited to participate in the cosmic plan of God

In this scene the infinite Glory of God is glimpsed through Jesus’ face and clothing , long departed saints appear and converse with Jesus, a radiant cloud envelops them and the voice of God is heard.  A great moment indeed.  Possibly most amazing is who the voice spoke to.   Not to Jesus, nor to the departed saints but to Peter, to James and to John.  To the most normal, most fallible beings present.

The message?  This is my Son whom I love, my delight…… wait for it…… LISTEN TO HIM.

When my son Harrison was a toddler one of the best ways to get his attention was to say “Come here, I’ve got something to tell you”.  He would stop what he was doing and wait to hear what the news was.

We are invited to stop what we are doing to listen to Jesus.  Jesus said ‘follow me’, here in this great moment the voice of God confirms our calling , ‘listen to Him’.  I like this invitation very much.

  1. I need not be afraid

After the invitation to listen, Jesus’ first words are “Don’t be afraid”.  At this point they are afraid, terrified in fact.  These words of Jesus speak to their current predicament but also to their tomorrow.  Don’t be afraid.

Whatever my situation or predicament.  Whatever lies ahead or whatever has gone before when we listen to Jesus, when we respond to the invitation to participate, to follow, we need not fear.

  1. Only Jesus

As God reveals a measure of His Glory to Peter, James and John they are awestruck.  Peter wishing to memorialize or bring structure to the experience suggests building memorials to Jesus, Moses and Elijah.

I don’t know what Peter was thinking.  Was he imagining the beginning of a Messianic conquest, or did he believe Moses and Elijah had returned for good?  Maybe this was the restoration to the good old days of Israel, no more Roman/Babylonian/Persian rule.

Then God speaks and every word he speaks points to Jesus, the Beloved Son, the focus of Gods delight.  In this great moment forget the structures and plans, forget the past and future, forget who it is you are, forget your heroes of old, forget all that might distract from the focus of Gods delight.  Jesus. Listen to Him.

When they opened their eyes and looked all around all they saw was Jesus, only Jesus.

Image:  Some rights reserved by gr33n3gg

Jesus only (Part 1 of 2)

Picture the scene. John the Baptizer is dead.  Jesus with His team of disciples have been travelling in Galilee and surrounding areas, healing the sick, freeing those oppressed by evil spirits and teaching on subjects as varied as persecution, faith and repentance.

Jesus has changed water to wine, walked on water and miraculously fed 5000 people. Before during and after theses adventures Jesus has told many stories, parables that grab the imagination and hang on until the heart and mind absorb them.  Life changing stories.

What do you understand?

After one such story (Matthew 15:15)  Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us”.  And he said, “Are you also still without understanding?”  Jesus then goes on to explain the parable.  The parable offended the Pharisees and all the disciples knew it! (vs12)

I like to understand stuff.  I don’t like doing anything without getting to grips with the detail.  I get why Peter wanted more information.  Jesus was challenging deeply held beliefs and traditions, Jesus was saying things that could lead down a dangerous path.  A path that could lead to imprisonment and rejection.  Peter could see this, he could not align this path with the ‘Messiah’ concept he had been taught and whom he had been eagerly waiting for.  I do not understand, Peter did not understand! Yet he knew Jesus, he had seen the miracles, experienced the compassion, known the authority.

Who do you know?

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?  And they said, “Some say John the Baptizer, others say Elijah, and other Jeremiah or one of the prophets”.  He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”  Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.  And on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”

Yet with all Peter’s confusion, with his lack of understanding, with his doubts, fears, misconceptions Peter was able to say with confidence – You are the Messiah, you are the one we have been waiting for, you are the Son of God, you are God.

Paul wrote to the Ephesian church “You have been saved by grace through believing. You did not save yourselves; it was a gift from God. It was not the result of your own efforts, so you cannot brag about it. God has made us what we are.” (Eph 2:8-10)

If you know Jesus to be Messiah, to be Saviour.  If you know Jesus it is as a result of God’s revelation.  Oftentimes God reveals to us, sows faith in our heart without providing the corresponding understanding.   Why is that?

On this rock!

The purposes of God in Peter’s life were based upon a personal revelation of God.  His lack of understanding does not get in the way of God’s revelation.

Questions (feel free to comment)

  • Do I feel like I am equipped to serve because of specific skills or understanding?
  • What is my attitude towards the Bible?  Textbook?  Source of understanding? Revelation of Jesus?
  • Do I feel that Jesus must fit into my preconceptions in order to be the real Messiah?

Part 2 of ‘Jesus Only’ will be posted early next week.

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Image Credit:  Some rights reserved by MarcooJethro®

W5-Who trumps what-where-when and why

In Belfast we have a wonderful science and discovery centre called W5, WhoWhatWhereWhenWhy – visit W5.  My sons aged 7 and 4 absolutely love it and we visit a few times each year.

What?

What should I do?  What do you want me to do?  What did you do?

What is the best approach to this project?  What hope do I have of making that work?

What should I spend money on? What should I eat? What type of x y and z should I have?

What subjects? What career? What company?

What is it made of? What does it need in order to work?

What am I going to do with you?

What have I done?  What have you done with my Son?

Where?

Where should we live? Where should we go to church?

Where should we holiday? Where can I find one?

Where is the best place to find peace and quiet?

Where did I lose that ticket?

Where can we go from His presence?

When?

When will that delivery arrive?

When can I go out to play?

When will I feel better?  When will things get better?

When will I learn?

When will you learn?

When will I earn enough money?

When will people realise how talented I am?

When will God answer?

Why?

Why me?

Why do I need to do that?

Why did that happen to you?

Why should I?

Why not?

Why, just stinkin’ why?

Why would anyone do that for me?

Why don’t we? Why wouldn’t we?

Why does it matter?

 Who?

Who said that?

Who knows best?

Who’s the daddy?

Who needs this most?

Who should I listen to?

Who can I help?

Who can I turn to for help?

Who can I depend on?  Who can depend on me?

Who is there?

Who loves ya baby?

Who’s left?

“Who do people say that I am?”   Who do I say that He is?

Who is a God like you?

You forgive those who are guilty of sin; you don’t look at the sins of your people who are left alive.

You will not stay angry forever, because you enjoy being kind.   Micah 7:18

You should read this great post on Coffee with Noelle for more on this verse.

Image  Some rights reserved by jonny goldstein

Up in Canada Larry Norman

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When I was up in Canada, I didn’t have much money
My shoes had holes and my toes were cold,
My nose was kinda runny. (it wasn’t funny)
I met a longhair on the street,
He said, “Look, you look like you’d like to eat.”
I said, “A glass of Coke and a hotdog’s fine,”
He said, “Well, how ’bout some bread and a glass of wine?”

 Larry Norman “Up in Canada – 1973″

This might not be one of Larry Norman’s most well known, or even better written songs, but I think it is one of his most powerful and still listen to it regularly.

The slightly comical rhyming of the verse contrasts with the ‘it wasn’t funny’ of being in need.  If there has been a time in your life that you have known about  ‘holey shoes’ or searching for change to buy bread you will understand the pain that being in need brings.

I love this song.  I love that when I listen to it I hear echos of two life changing truths.

Jesus knows

Look, you look like you’d like to eat‘  Jesus knows the need.  My experience is that when we are in need we feel invisible.  We feel like no one can see our plight.  We desperately want to be helped, for our plight to be noticed.  At the same time we are embarrassed, we are ashamed that we need help.  Growing up in post puritan Northern Ireland the greatest cultural failure is to be bankrupt, to not be able to provide for yourself or your family.  A culture that focuses on the sin of the prodigal rather than the provision of the father.

In the midst of this cultural condemnation there is still a God who sees and reaches out.  There is still a church, inspired by God that understands that we have all got it wrong.  Some might have made wise financial decisions and feel self satisfaction that this global financial mess is not their fault, others have dug a hole so deep that invisibility has become current reality ahead of the inevitable shameful exposure.  Neither have the ability to meet the bill their lives have run up.

Jesus knows the need.

Jesus’ provision is always complete and eternal, never superficial and temporary

I said, “A glass of Coke and a hotdog’s fine,”
He said, “Well, how ’bout some bread and a glass of wine?

We must eat but tomorrow we will be hungry again.  We need oxygen to live but no amount of oxygen will stop us dying.  Jesus knows the need, and it is a real need.  Our needs are not insignificant and Jesus does not take our needs lightly.  He is the one who  provided wine at a wedding, who had compassion on the infirm.

Jesus provides our needs, holding all things together that we might live in this world, Jesus helps, yes he helps.   As well as providing help,  He is the answer for our deepest need.  The need for rightness with him, the need for forgiveness and restoration (don’t pretend things aren’t broken, you are, we are, I am).

The words of this song echo the fact that in meeting our physical needs with provision, Jesus also meets our need of Him.  It is his body broken that provided wholeness, blood spilled that achieved forgiveness and restoration for us.

I will leave you with a tweet from my friend Chilly and ‘Up in Canada’ by Larry Norman, be patient the song starts after a few seconds.

 

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDk5rwtJG40

A final message from the pastor

Augustus_Edwin_Mulready_Uncared_for_1871In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ Acts 20:35

I find this combination of text and painting almost overwhelming. Perhaps it is the similarity between this young boy and my own son Harrison that stopped me in my tracks.  The skin tone, hair colour even the physical size and presence are striking to me.

Final words from the pastor

These are the final words of Paul to the elders of the Ephesian Church before he sets sail, knowing he will never see them again.  After saying this they knelt and prayed before embracing each other with tears.

If you were asked to write a speech for Paul to the leaders of his church what would you write?  As their pastor what could Paul say that would have the most benefit in their walk with Jesus.

Paul’s message was ‘follow my example, I have not sought to be blessed by you but to bless you.  I have not sought to gain riches from you but to bring you riches.’  Paul instructed them that they MUST help the weak and as a result they themselves will be blessed.

Rewind to Micah

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?    Micah 6:8

The word translated ‘to love kindness’ (hesed) is also often translated ‘loving kindness’ or ‘steadfast love’.  This word appears 250 times in the Bible, mostly used to describe God, but 25% of the time it describes how we should respond to others.

Paul’s enduring message is that the church should be the source of enduring love

Our kindness must be steadfast and loyal.  Paul leaves no choice in whether or not we should be living sacrificially in order to show this kindness.

This instruction is possibly the perfect definition of Win/Win.  Living sacrificially in order to help we are blessed more than if we were receiving help. If you have ever been on the receiving end of help you will understand just how great this ‘greater blessing’ must be.

You can get a hi-res copy of the Augustus Edwin Mulready painting ‘Uncared for’ here