The Fisherman’s Advice

Evidently I don’t have a strong stomach, because the last time I went fishing at sea I got sick. I know fishing trips are famous for being exaggerated, but I’ll be honest with you: there was no storm. It was a normal day, with normal waves, and we didn’t even go far out to sea. Still, as the boat continually shifted, my insides rebelled against me in slow motion. It was getting harder and harder to focus on my fishing line or the conversation going on around me. I felt bad. All I wanted was for the floor to stop moving—was that so much to ask? Thankfully, I was with an experienced fisherman who gave me helpful advice: “Look at the shore,” he said, “it will give you a reference point, and help you be able to roll with the waves.” I could tell he knew what he was talking about, because he had no trouble at all moving confidently around the constantly rocking boat.

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Why Is It So Hard To Think?

I love the feeling that comes when I’ve thought a straight path through a difficult problem and found a solution. I love it when my brain connects all the dots and finally sees things clearly, when pieces are falling together and ideas are springing up and blooming all around me. It’s great to be there. I’d love to be there more often. The trouble is that, for me, this rarified ground of a high-functioning mind is hard to get to. Sometimes, when the day is done, I look at the excellent books I have, many of which I’ve yet to read. I want to know what they say, I want to think about the world and my place in it and how to make tomorrow better than today, but my mind is tired and then somehow I’m on Facebook laughing at a meme and before I know it, it’s past time for bed. How did that happen? Why is it so hard to think?

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Now We Will See What God Will Do

This is a poem about confidence. Not confidence in myself, my abilities, or my circumstances, but confidence in God and in his good promises for those who belong to him:

When there is all and only need
Flowing freely out of me
The answer of my heart will be:
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Tidings Of Comfort

“I’m just not feeling as festive this year,” said my eleven-year-old son, this morning, Christmas Eve. 

“I know. It’s harder for everyone, I think.” What else could I say? It may be “the most wonderful time of the year,” but in 2020, that’s not saying a lot.

Normally at Christmas, when we sing lines like “tidings of comfort and joy” we focus primarily on the “joy.” I do, anyway. I like to think of Christmas as a happy time, a time of celebration and rejoicing. In all my Christmases, I can’t remember ever thinking much at all about the other word: “comfort.” 

Until this year.

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An Irish Christmas Selection Box

It’s Christmas week, and we’ve already ended up with more chocolate selection boxes than is good for us, which is traditional. I can’t share those with you, but I would like to share a selection box of some of the things I’ve enjoyed online from Ireland this Christmas season…

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Snapchats, Stories, Fleets, and Glories

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Snapchat is drowning in it. Twitter’s recent addition of “Fleets” to the top of their feed looks like what Instagram, Facebook, and Linkedin call “Stories,” and all of them work off the same principle that launched Snapchat to prominence: impermanence. It can be daunting to think that what goes up online never comes down, and the solution from every social app is now to offer a way to post temporarily. Now you can say what you like and dance how you please, knowing that after 24 hours the evidence will be gone and no one will be able to cancel you for it in twenty years. Usually the strings of temporary stories at the top of my news feeds are filled with simple pictures or short videos of everyday moments like stencilled coffees, beautiful sunsets, and random complaints. Sometimes they are encouraging thoughts or recommendations. Whatever they are, if you don’t look at them in their allotted time, you’ll miss them. 

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The night before Christmas 2020 (a spoken word poem)

This year is different. We all feel the tension between it and our holiday celebrations. That’s what this spoken word poem is about:

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If You’re Easy To Please, You’ll Be Pleased More Often

“You’re easy to please” should be a compliment. That’s what I think, even though I know it isn’t used that way. I know the people saying it usually mean that you’re undiscerning, childish, and too quick to give approval where it isn’t warranted. What I want to know is: What are you supposed to be waiting for, before you let yourself be pleased?

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Five Kernels Of Corn

Growing up in America, Thanksgiving Day was one of the highlights of the whole year. Some years my family travelled to feast with others, other years guests came to feast with us. I remember the leaf piles, laughter, and Atari games with my cousins, and when we were home, I remember the five kernels of corn. 

We would sit at tables that had been fully extended, knowing that the biggest feast of the year was waiting in the kitchen. We could smell it. We could nearly taste it. The tables were dressed up with the best tablecloths and plates, and on each one of those plates were five carefully counted kernels of corn. Before we ate them, my mom reminded us why they were there: she told us about the Pilgrims who landed in the new world seeking religious freedom, and how they struggled to survive those early winters in the wilderness. She told us how local Native American tribes helped the struggling Pilgrims, teaching them the right times and ways to fish and grow crops in a new environment. But then, just when they started to get ahead, a ship full of new settlers arrived without food supplies. To keep themselves alive, the entire settlement was reduced to a ration of just five kernels of corn a day. Could you imagine? Somehow, they made it through that winter and lived to bring in a good harvest the next year. As they celebrated that harvest with the local tribes who had helped them, they began their feast together with a reminder: five kernels of corn were placed on each plate, “lest anyone forget”.

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The Plot Twists In My Own Story

I recently finished my first Agatha Christie novel, after hearing my whole life about how good her mysteries are. Yes, it was good. At one point or another I thought almost every character was the murderer. The plot kept twisting through the pages in such unexpected ways that I had no choice but to check out of reality for the rest of the day in order to find out what happened. Good thing it was my day off.

One of the wonderfully frustrating things that I love and hate about books is that they take a long time to get through. A movie is fast—the action carries me along to a conclusion in a matter of hours. A book is slow (compounded for me by my slow reading pace), leaving me in suspense for ages while I wade through details and conversations and descriptions to find the next big revelation. In that sense, a book is a little more like real life, where the action doesn’t happen in a quick succession that always ties up neatly just before the credits. Real life is full of pauses—evenings and mornings and dirty dishes. A book that takes multiple days to read allows me to live inside the story longer, to enter further into the feelings of the characters who are living through the unknown. For a few days, I’m living there with them. And while a movie is always viewed from a third-person perspective, in a book I can think the characters’ thoughts with them. I can see the plot twists unfold through their eyes. Which feels familiar, because it’s how I see the plot twists unfold in my own life.

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