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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We Cry Out

We’ve been working our way through Romans in our local Bible study group, and last week we talked about the part in chapter 8 where Paul writes this:

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.”

As I’ve read the news this week, I have thought about these verses often. I feel it in my own heart: I am groaning inwardly. The whole world is groaning in pain. But the beauty of this passage is not in its realism, although the realism is important. We dare not downplay the pain. It is too real, too horrible, too heavy. In a global moment like this, we simply cannot ignore the brokenness of our world, or pretend that everything is fine. It’s not fine. At all. And yet, we see in these verses that although reality includes pain and groaning right now, reality is more than those things—there is a hope that is just as real—even more so. That’s what I tried to capture in this poem:

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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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A Personal Update

When I put up the first post on this blog in June 2018, I was writing for my local community in Ireland—the friends and neighbours that I see and interact with in my daily life. (This article by Laura Lundergren casts a great vision for this, and this one by Tim Challies helped me commit to keep going regularly). I still write for those same friends and neighbours, but last year people visited this site from 124 countries and I have to admit that this thing called the internet is still surprising me. All I can say is that whoever you are and wherever you are, thank you for coming to this little corner of the world wide web. Your visits and comments have been encouraging and motivating. I hope you’ve been encouraged as well. This is my 200th blog post, so I’d like to take the opportunity to share a personal update:

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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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Don’t Fight The Shadows

A poem for the times when God’s people find themselves walking in the dark:

Don’t fight the shadows
My child
When they fall on your way
Obscuring the warmth and
The light of the day

When they cause you to shiver
And stumble
And grope
When they cause you to question
Your reasons
For hope

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5 Ways To Help Those Struggling With Depression

This is a guest post by my friend Paul Ritchie, who is the pastor of Limerick Baptist Church. Paul’s new book “Is It Unspiritual To Be Depressed?” has just been released by Christian Focus Publications (you can buy it here, or from other online shops). It is a helpful resource for anyone who struggles with depression or anxiety, and for those who are trying to support friends or loved ones. Paul speaks honestly from his own experience, and wisely from God’s truth. I asked him to share a few thoughts about how to genuinely help those who are struggling with depression. Here are his suggestions:

The support group, AWARE, states that in the Republic of Ireland one in ten people are suffering the symptoms of depression at any given time. The figures are likely to be similar in the United Kingdom. That being the case, you can be sure that there are probably more people in your church who struggle with depression and anxiety than you realise. So, how can you help them?

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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?

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