Hand-Crafted

A few months ago I was on a long flight over the ocean, and towards the end of it the airline attendants brought me a sandwich. When I looked closely at the plastic packaging I noticed that mine said it was “hand-crafted”, and that the bread was made using “authentic methods”. They must have passed out hundreds of “authentic” “hand-crafted” sandwiches that morning. I’m not really sure what those words mean exactly (what would an “inauthentic method” be?), but I know there’s part of me that does prefer to know that a human was involved in the process of making my food. Which is strange, to think of it—machines are pretty good at things, after all. With the right design and programming I’m sure they could be great at producing sandwiches. Probably better than a lot of people. I suppose the difference is that machines don’t care. A lot of people don’t care, either, but at least with a human there’s a chance. And that means something. It means so much, in fact, that the sandwich packaging said “hand-crafted”, not “machine perfected”. We like the thought of our lunch being made specially, with care, not just mindlessly mass-produced in a machine.

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Dress-Up Servants

There’s a house in Ireland, on the grounds of Cahir Castle, that is known as The Swiss Cottage. It has nothing at all to do with Switzerland, but the name sounds exotic and foreign and I’m pretty sure Switzerland doesn’t mind. It was actually designed by a famous English architect (who also designed parts of Buckingham Palace) for a powerful Irish Earl in the early 1800’s. It was made as a cottage orné, a style that imitated and idealised the homes of the poor, while still retaining the comforts of the wealthly. The Earl and his family and friends could escape from their large castle to the fanciful cottage for a picnic or party, and for a while pretend that they were like simple peasants, like the peasants who worked their large estates. They even went so far as to dress up for the part sometimes, or perhaps it’s more proper to say that they dressed down, into the clothes of the common people. Nearby, an underground tunnel meant that actual peasants could come and go from a hidden basement kitchen without being seen, until they were called upon to serve their masters, who were pretending to be like their own servants in the garden. Can you imagine being one of those servants, watching powerful lords and ladies playing dress-up in servant’s clothes, while still making you do all the actual work? If the walls of that underground kitchen could talk, I’d imagine they could repeat a few choice words. The Earl and his family may have dressed the same way as the servants, but there was still a big difference: the real servants served. The pretend servants didn’t.

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Dream Small Is Now Available For Preorder

Most of you already know that I have written a book, titled Dream Small. I know the title sounds odd in a world obsessed with bigger and better, but the truth is that the things the world typically measures as bigger really aren’t better. There are better dreams to live for right in front of you, wherever you are. This book is about finding and living for those dreams, even if the world considers them small. I’m happy to let you know that Dream Small will release on the 1st of September (earlier than expected!), and that it is now available for preorder. Here a few of the places you can preorder it from:

The Good Book Company UK / USA

Teach Solas (Cork) / The Evangelical Bookshop (Belfast)

Amazon.com / .co.uk

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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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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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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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Music And Lyrics

The world has a rhythm: a steady beat of seasons and sunrises, of tides and migrations and flowers and fruit.

The world has a melody: the beauty that stands out and demands our attention—the dawn chorus, the painted skies, the autumn colours and majestic peaks.

The world has a harmony: the subtle details that we hardly even notice, but they add richness and depth to the world, like the veins in a leaf, the scent in the grass, and the warmth in sunshine and fire.

The world is a symphony: exquisite and detailed and beautiful. But for all of its music, there is one thing that the world cannot supply on its own. The world has music—but it doesn’t have lyrics. That’s where we come in.

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Every Corner Is Crowded

Last week, I stood in front of a barn in the woods in Alabama that no animals have ever lived in, but I lived in it. I was a child then, and my family lived there while our house was being built on the same property and that worked out pretty well for us. I hadn’t seen it for several years, but it still looks like a barn. At least, that’s all you would see. When I look at it, I see more. I see so much that my mind can hardly keep up. I could stand there all day and look around at the barn and the house and the trees and I could watch the river of scenes pass by for hours and hours because this is my place, this is where my life took root and grew up with the pecan trees that my father and grandfather planted. When I go back there now, I feel like I have to walk slowly because the place is so crowded with memories. The sweet and bitter and happy and sad and embarrassing are all jumbled up together—every step, every sight, every sound and smell is full of them.

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How Much Does A Good Deed Weigh?

On the ruins of an ancient cathedral in Ardmore, County Waterford, on the south coast of Ireland, there are a series of pictures carved in stone. Each picture tells a story from the Bible, and most of them are still complete enough to be recognisable. Adam and Eve are under a tree, and three wise men are bringing gifts to Jesus. Solomon is there with a sword, making a judgment between two women who claimed the same baby. There’s also a pair of weighing scales—but what Bible story is that?

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