Hannah’s Funeral

My wife and I have never met our first child. We lost the baby during the pregnancy, in the early stages before we even knew for sure if it was a girl. But we both knew she was a girl. We named her Hannah Grace, and yesterday would have been her 16th birthday. Years ago I wrote about Hannah for an Irish magazine called 4you. I posted that article on the blog in 2018, and I’m reposting it today in honour of the daughter we look forward to meeting for the first time in Heaven.

It’s taking too long. That’s how I know my world is crumbling. The midwife can’t find what she’s looking for. She keeps trying, but every new effort is the ringing of steeple bells tolling a funeral. Not a formal, prepared, eulogised, dressed-in-black funeral. No, this is an impromptu affair, with no time to think, and no black shoes to look at as I stare at the floor. But I can’t just stare at the floor, people are talking to me. I have to concentrate to keep looking at them. I have to focus. It’s not their fault. They’re trying to help. I need to be polite and listen. What about my wife? She must be feeling the same as me. No, she must be feeling worse. After all, Hannah is still inside her. Hannah who we weren’t even sure was a girl (but we knew). Hannah who was a world of new life and dreams. Hannah who we have the little dress waiting for at home in a room right across the hall so we can hear her if she cries…

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Generous Patience

“She’s so generous,” he said. 

If he said it to you, what would your first thought be about the person he described? Would it have anything to do with how she uses her money? Probably it would. Money is the context we almost always use the word “generous” for. And that’s not bad—we need far more financial generosity in the world. But let’s not forget that the word (and the reality it stands for) applies to far more than our finances. 

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Burdens

I’ve been surprised many times at how strong the connection is between my mind and my body. Thoughts may not be tangible, but there is no denying that they have tangible effects on how my body works (or doesn’t work, as the case may be). My doctor told me years ago that the symptoms I described to him were not a disease—they were the natural (and quite common, he assured me) results of stress. The cure was not medicine, but a quieter mind. Easier said than done. The good news is we’re not alone: Psalm 55:22 and 1 Peter 5:7 invite us to cast our burdens on the Lord, who cares for his children. Galatians 6:2 also encourages God’s people to imitate their Saviour and “carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.”

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The Wise Man Is In Town

The wise man, with his flowing white beard, sits alone on top of a high mountain. The air is crisp and clear and the view is stunning, but he doesn’t see it. His eyes are closed in peaceful meditation. Nothing disturbs his solitude until the sound of footsteps announces the arrival of a wisdom-seeker. The sage remains seated, relaxed, as enigmatic (but deeply profound) answers fall slowly from his lips. As the footsteps of the now-satisfied (though slightly confused) intruder once again fade into the distance, the wise man resumes his silent reflection as if nothing had interrupted him.

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Seven Books That Changed My Perspective

Communication is powerful. Written and spoken words can carry ideas, and ideas can change the world. This week, I’d like to share with you seven books that changed the way I think about things. There are many other books that I love and many that I have enjoyed greatly, but for a book to be on this list, it has to have changed my perspective on something. Here they are, in no particular order:

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The Same Old Faces

My wife and I are planning to make some improvements to our garden this year, and one of the things we’d like to do is plant a new miniature apple tree. We like planting trees. It’s fun to anticipate what a newly planted tree will become in the years ahead. But there’s the rub: “years ahead.” Because if you want to eat the fruit from a tree, you need to give it time. A lot of time. You need to let it grow, put down roots, and become part of the ordinary, everyday scenery. It’s only after you look out of the window for years at the same old tree that you start to be able to reap the full harvest of fruit and shade and beauty and all that a tree can be in its maturity. By that time, the tree is nothing like new. The initial excitement of planting eventually gives way to a more settled appreciation and enjoyment of the tree as a part of everyday life.

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Peace And Rest

After the busy, noisy celebration of Christmas, the slower pace and restfulness of this week between Christmas and New Year’s is refreshing. But if the good news we just celebrated is true, then peace and rest mean much more than a temporary time of relief in our schedule. There is a peace and rest available to us that is deep enough to remain even in the most hectic times, and secure enough to withstand the most severe troubles. This peace and rest came to us because of Christmas, but they are not presents—they are found in a person. That’s what I’ve tried to capture in these two poems:

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A Christmas Selection Box 2022

It’s traditional in Ireland to give chocolate selection boxes at Christmas, with a variety of different treats inside. Unfortunately, I can’t share that chocolate with you over the internet. I wish I could, because Irish chocolate really is some of the best in the world and I’m not the only one who thinks so. But I can’t give you that, so instead I’ve collected a few Christmas treats for you from around the internet. Enjoy!

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Hope > Optimism

I hope you have a happy Christmas, or a merry Christmas if you say it that way, and a happy New Year. I hope your celebrations this month are trouble-free and full of joy, and I hope 2023 is better for you than 2022. Of course there’s probably nothing I can do to actually make that happen for most of you, but I hope it for you anyway. We don’t know what’s around the next corner, so we might as well be optimistic about it. 

I’ve always been an optimist. I’ve got so much optimism I can be an optimist for you as well, if you want me to. I can believe all the best things about your future and mine. It comes naturally for me, so it’s no trouble. The only trouble with the whole thing is the trouble that keeps popping up and spoiling my optimistic outlooks. Sometimes everything doesn’t work out. Sometimes it’s not ok. Sometimes it’s not grand, it’s not good, and it’s not even fine. As much as I hate to admit it, sometimes my optimism is just plain wrong. So I still hope you have a happy Christmas, but I’m also painfully aware that my positive thoughts won’t be able to make that happen for you. 

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The General

My brother and I shared a room growing up, and our closet held a few random pieces of military uniforms inherited from family members who had served in the armed forces. The most popular was the Air Force dress uniform hat. My brother wore it, mostly, because he was the oldest boy in the neighbourhood, so he was the general. The general was never short of orders for his loyal troops. He graciously helped us advance from lowly privates through rank after gratifying rank by having us climb walls, run obstacle courses, and complete drills. We obeyed enthusiastically, and proudly wore the rank pins we bought for ourselves from the Army surplus store. We dug trenches. We built hidden fortresses in the forest. We spent our days outside rearranging red clay and fallen trees, scraping our knees and conquering our fears, all for the general. We never questioned his authority. We never thought to ask him why he never had to earn his own rank. The sun was shining, morale was high, and there was always another challenge to work towards.

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