The Success Of Others

The internet has the power to connect people in ways no one could have anticipated. Now I can keep track of where my old acquaintances go on their holidays, see pictures of lovely dinners eaten by people I haven’t spoken to in years, and find out what my childhood playmates think about government policies. Amazing, isn’t it? Through their pictures and posts, I get a glimpse into their lives—their homes, families, travels, and their stunning accomplishments and successes. 

I’m glad for them, really. But sometimes I also wonder—how does my own life measure up to theirs? Is my life still important if it doesn’t include the same kinds of successes that I see other people achieving and enjoying? If they reach higher and go further than I do, am I just one more loser bringing up the rear in some kind of cosmic reality show competition?

Continue reading The Success Of Others

Don’t Measure Fashions By Their Age

I’m not quite over the hill yet, but in a lot of ways I’m already old-fashioned. I like old music and old manners and old standards for grammar, and I still don’t get the new trend of using emoji skulls in the place of laughing faces. More seriously, I don’t think that the modern trend of commitment-free relationships has been good for children. Or relationships.

On the other hand, there are some old fashions that I don’t like. I don’t like wearing neckties—who decided that tying a rope around your own neck was a good idea? I also don’t like old systems of religious rules that measure love for God by obedience to commands he never gave. And I don’t like being measured by my social connections or income level instead of the content of my character—an age-old fashion that is still circulating today. So I guess I’m not completely old-fashioned.

Continue reading Don’t Measure Fashions By Their Age

Capturing A Moment

The warm sunlight is filtering through the trees, there’s music in the air, and amid the bustle of the servers and the clink of the cutlery there’s a constant hum of lively conversation. I’m not there. I don’t even know where it is, but when I look at the painting of this scene that hangs over our mantle, I can hear it all. I can feel it all, and I love it. I love how the painting reminds me of moments like this one in real life, when I’ve been in seats like these with friends and family around me. I’m glad the artist captured this moment (wherever it was) and held on to it for me with his brush. I’m glad I found the print to hang in my house, to remind me of my own moments like these.

Continue reading Capturing A Moment

You Can’t Explain The World Without Poetry

Science has limitations. It can tell us what things are made of, but it has trouble telling us what they are made for. Sometimes, if you want to explain the world fully, what you really need is a poem. Most of my poems come to me while I’m walking home after dropping the children to school, looking around at the world and trying to see the familiar things that surround me for what they really are. That’s where these three came from:

Continue reading You Can’t Explain The World Without Poetry

Lift Up Your Head

Halloween is a dark holiday, but I don’t find it very scary. Costumes and plastic skeletons don’t intimidate me. It’s all pretend, and for most people, the main point is sugar. I find the news headlines in my Twitter feed a lot more terrifying. Some of the themes are the same—darkness, death, and evil running free. I guess the decorative ghosts and tombstones and skeletons do contain an element of realism: there is real darkness in this world, and real death. At our point in history, there’s no question that the real skeletons on this planet outnumber the living humans by a long shot. That’s a sobering thought. And there are plenty of other fears for those of us who aren’t skeletons yet—from disease and disaster to dystopian decisions and disturbing trends and growing disorder and disunity, you don’t have to look far to get a fright these days. 

In Luke 21, Jesus warned his disciples about difficult days that were coming. He said, “People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world.” Does that sound familiar? But he tells his disciples: “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Continue reading Lift Up Your Head

Someone Else’s City

I took a walk on someone else’s street, someone else’s everyday avenue, in someone else’s city. To me, it was all new. I’d never seen the buildings before, or the trees, and the next corner was a complete mystery that drew me on to look and discover. I didn’t know anyone who lived there, or who their cousins were, or what church they were baptised in. But they knew.

Continue reading Someone Else’s City

Everything is Ordinary, Everything is Wonderful

Gold is just a rock. Money is just fancy paper—or these days, even less—ones and zeros floating invisible out of our mobile phones with a little bleep. But then, mobile phones are really just a collection of sand, a few bits of rare stones, and some electrically charged lithium-ions and such. Even the hands that hold them are a mix of basic components like carbon, water, calcium, and a few other things.

When you really break it down, life itself is a collection of dead elements and minerals. Under a microscope, the colours and patterns of flower petals and butterfly wings are lost in a confusion of nucleotides and mitochondrion and smooth endoplasmic reticulum.

Continue reading Everything is Ordinary, Everything is Wonderful

Being The Bad Guy

At our house, I’ve always been the bad guy. To be more precise, I’ve been a lot of bad guys. Sometimes it is just part of me, like when my hands became the Flying Tickle Spiders. Other times I’ve needed extra props, like the brown blanket for the times when the Muddy Hole Troll tried to trap my children in his muddy pit in a terrible plot to keep them filthy. In lightsaber fights, Sith Seth has always been the one threatening destruction and calling good little Jedis to join the dark side. Then there have been attacks from the electric Volt-ure who zapped children (disclaimer: no real electricity was involved) and the Alien Chef who has tried to make them into sandwiches between the beanbags. Our house has been a dangerous place. 

The thing is, all my terrible plots have ended in failure. I guess I’m not really that great at being an evil mastermind. Somehow, the children have always found a way to defeat me. Which is fine. Actually, I’m happy. I want the bad guys to lose, too. Yes, our house can be a dangerous place, but it is only silly danger, and my children can fight my evil plots with complete confidence of eventual victory. We just have fun together, and I hope they remember that. But I hope they remember more—I hope they hold on to that feeling of confidence, of knowing they will win eventually. They are growing up now, growing beyond the games and closer to the reality of the world, and here’s the thing: the world is a dangerous place.

Continue reading Being The Bad Guy

The Headless Head Of Ireland

The history of Ireland is written in stone—crumbling stone—in the ancient walls and castles and cottages and churches dotted all across her landscape. I find them constantly fascinating, which I’m sure has something to do with the fact that I came here from a country that wasn’t covered in such tangible monuments to the past. When I look at them, they remind me that life is short, history is long, and the possessions and power that humans collect here on earth are only temporary. 

Last week, our family stumbled across the ruined mansion of a man who was powerful and important, in the extreme. It was enormous. Even in ruins, it still impresses. But among the ruins, there was a statue that had toppled from its place in the Big Wind of 1839, and when it fell, the head broke off and was never recovered. Psalm 146 tells us to put our trust in the Lord, not in the power of mortal princes. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more vivid picture of this warning than that statue of a man who was the head of all of Ireland, whose head has never been recovered. As I thought about what we had seen, I wrote this poem:

Continue reading The Headless Head Of Ireland

The Discipline Of Being Overwhelmed

Beside the road, the grass was parted into a path created by the feet of those who had walked there before me. I didn’t know the destination, but I had time, so I decided to follow the lead of those feet and find out where they were going.

It was a good decision. The path took me over a rise and around a corner, then sloped down gradually with a panoramic view of the ocean in front of me. On the right, the ground sloped down sharply towards a rocky cove where people were swimming. On the left, there was no ground. Only a sheer cliff, and the waves far below.

Continue reading The Discipline Of Being Overwhelmed