A Happy Beginning

“And they lived happily ever after” may be a cliché, but it’s still satisfying. After all the troubles and difficulties of a good story, we love to see the happy couple roll away in their carriage as the credits start rolling. Of course, we also know in the back of our minds that any “ever after” on earth will include more troubles and difficulties in the days and years ahead. But after all they have been through, we wouldn’t want to mention that. It’s the end of the story, leave them alone. But in real life, a wedding is not the end of the story. It’s the beginning of a new chapter, one that could easily be longer and more complex than anything that came before it. 

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5 Top Tips For Christians Travelling In 2022

This is a guest post from my friend, Peter Grier, author of Travel: in tandem with God’s Heart. I found Peter’s book very helpful, and asked him to share a few thoughts on how we can travel as Christians now that the world is opening up again:

The pandemic has been (largely) left behind and finally we’re free! Travel figures are back surging again as travel-hungry individuals, families and groups of friends seek to make up for lost time. Wanted to go somewhere for that big birthday? 2022 is your year to catch-up! Missed a honeymoon? 2022! Simply want to see family and friends again after years? Now’s your chance!

Partly due to the surge, and partly to make up for lost sales, travel in 2022 may not be the cheapest it’s ever been (car hire and competition around accommodation especially), but there’s plenty of bargains out there still, depending on what kind of travel you’re interested in and whether you’re flexible.

But what does it look like for a Jesus-follower to travel this year? Here’s 5 ideas which hopefully may be of use to us all:

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A Strategic Retreat

About a year ago, I deleted all the social media apps on my phone. It felt drastic at the time, like chopping off my own thumb (you know, the scrolling one). But I still have those apps on my tablet, and I still have both my thumbs, so I don’t think I’ve actually missed much. I still enjoy using social media. I guess I just got tired of missing things in the real world because I was looking at my phone too much when I could have been looking around. 

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Seedlings Need The Weather

There’s a small square of earth behind our house that belongs to us. Which is strange, because it was here a long time before we were and will be here a long time after we’re gone. But there’s a deed in an office somewhere that has our names on it, so the ground is ours. And with that ground comes the responsibility to care for it—a responsibility that didn’t come from an office, but from Heaven.

We do our best. And when I say “we”, I really mean my wife, Jessica. She’s the one who does most of the caring and tending and planting. I made the raised beds around the edges of the garden, but she’s the one that filled them with roses and blueberries, mint and strawberries, pineapple sage and climbing jasmine and passion flowers. This year, she brought home packets of seeds for dahlias, zinnias, and cornflowers as well, because she wants to have flowers to cut for our dinner table throughout the spring, summer, and autumn. She sowed the seeds in trays of compost and found the perfect spot inside our glass door where our seedlings could have ideal conditions: plenty of sun (by Irish standards), warmth inside the house, protection from cold and storms and slugs, and regular watering. We babied our little baby plants, and we were delighted to see them grow, and grow fast. In fact they grew so fast that their stems became long and thin and too weak to hold up their own new leaves. One by one me they began to fall over. What went wrong? How could our seedlings be so weak when we protected them from every difficulty and obstacle? What more could we do for them? 

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How To Turn A Clique Inside Out

Cliques. They’re awful, aren’t they? We love to hate them (probably because we feel like they hate us). They’re easy targets for our criticism, all selfish and exclusive and proud, and who do they think they are treating other people like they don’t matter and barely exist at all? Cliques are bad. 

That is, until we’re in them. But the cliques we’re in aren’t cliques at all, because cliques are one of those odd realities that can only be seen and recognised from the outside. From the inside, they look completely different. From the inside, all we can see is camaraderie, companionship, support, and fun jokes that no one else understands. Who calls their closest friend group a “clique”? Maybe it happens, but I’ve never heard anyone use that name for themselves and their own friends. As far as I can tell, the name is always applied to other people in other groups—especially the groups we happen to feel a particular sense of exclusion from. 

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Walking With God At 3mph

When we moved to Ireland, one of the things we noticed was how near we were to shops, schools, meetings, and most things, really. The old streets are laid out with feet in mind, not tyres, so the buildings in towns and villages are close together. Now, I can walk most places, and a lot of times, I do. I know it’s slower. Most people walk at about 3mph, and my car is faster than that even on narrow streets. From that perspective, walking isn’t the most efficient way to get around. So why do it? 

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My Head And The Headlines

Reading the news these days is like watching a train wreck in slow motion—except it’s not a train, it’s the whole world. And like a train wreck, as horrifying as it is to watch, it’s also hard to look away. Every day I want an update on the war in Ukraine and the responses and effects on the rest of the world, and every day I know that the updates are going to make me sad when I see all the needless suffering of so many people who are made in the image of God. Of course, it’s hard to know exactly which updates are the truth and which are exaggerated for effect, or what is being left out, or what is going to happen next, but the general outlines of an unfolding tragedy are clear enough. 

The stakes are high. Once again, the world is being shaken. We never even had a chance to catch our breath. The bad news just keeps rolling in every time I refresh the news feed, demanding my attention, shouting about fear and disaster, death and destruction and economic collapse. It’s shocking, worrying, tiring, and anger-inducing, all at the same time, and I don’t want to look away. 

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What I Learned About Love When I Met My Son

I remember meeting my firstborn child for the first time. Of course I do. How could I forget? I remember when I spoke to him the first time, and he turned and looked at me, and this tiny fresh human who had never seen the outside world before recognised my voice, and stopped crying. That was the moment I realised with incredible force that my world could never be the same because part of my heart was now inside the body of a child I didn’t even know yet.

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