Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day In The Midst Of Calamity (Like The Man Himself)

It’s always a busy holiday, with parades and parties and overflowing pubs. The airports are full, and the tourists have their phones out, taking pictures. 

But not this year.

This year, St. Patrick’s Day looks very different in Ireland. The parades and parties are cancelled, and even the pubs are closed. The atmosphere is anything but celebratory. This year, the air is heavy with fear. A slow motion disaster is shaking the foundations of our prosperous security, and death itself is whispering threats in our ears. Can we really celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in the midst of all this?

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Books To Be Quarantined With

All of a sudden, we’ve got extra time on our hands. The children are home from school, lots of us are working from home, and we’ve got two weeks (at least) of cancelled events and nobody calling over for a cuppa. It’s a perfect time to pour that cuppa for yourself, sit down, and pour a few good books into your soul. Here’s some that my family and I have found enjoyable…

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The Things We Remember When Normal Life Stops

Normal life evaporated in Ireland today. It’s like the nation caught the virus, and went to bed. Schools are closed, events are cancelled, and the streets are getting quiet (although the shops have been crazy). It feels like the world is turning upside down, burying the life we’re used to and bringing up uncertainty and fear in its place. And the fear is real.

No one knows for sure when this will end, or what it will cost us in lives and livelihoods. We do know this, though: Normal life is good. We already miss it. And maybe that’s a silver lining to these dark clouds – we remember what we love. The steady rhythms of normal life can make us sleepy and distracted, but now we’re awake. Now we remember:

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The Man In 38F

Somewhere over the Atlantic, there’s a metal tube with wings. Inside, a man sits in a seat called 38F, surrounded by strangers. And the strangest thing of all is the fact that he’s a stranger, too. He doesn’t feel like one, because he knows where he came from and where he’s going and why. He knows someone. He knows the man in 38F. At least, he knows him better than he knows any of the people around him.

But they don’t.

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A Kiss In My Hand

“Daddy,
Put a kiss in my hand,
And while you’re away I can hold it
Up to my cheek
And be happy
Knowing that you really love me”

“Daddy,
Here’s a kiss in your hand,
And while you’re away you can hold it
Up to your cheek
And I’ll give you
My love from a long way away”


My daughter is seven, but her love is much bigger than her size would suggest. She said this (ok, I’ve paraphrased) before I left home for a week, and here I am sitting on the other side of an ocean with my hand on my face and no one knows why.

Cameraman, Lend A Hand!

You don’t have to look far on the internet to find a mobile phone horror film. A terrible accident, a crime, a fight – any tragedy will do, from crying children to actual murders, and it’s all captured and posted online for the world to see. There will be plenty more, as well, as long as we live in a world saturated with cameras. 

The thing is, mobile phone cameras don’t operate themselves. The real world has camera operators just as much as Hollywood does. Actually, the real world has more of them than Hollywood could ever dream of.

But Hollywood has trained us to ignore the people behind the cameras. They don’t exist, in the story. They’re invisible, along with the smoke machines and microphones and make-up artists and all the rest. If a fight breaks out on screen, we never think of yelling for the cameraman to jump in and help – he doesn’t exist. 

But in real life, he does exist.

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Obedience Is Better Than Greek

Last week, I spent 28 hours in Bible College lectures on the gospels. We covered a lot of ground, which really means we scratched a lot of surface. The more I learn about the Bible, the more glimpses I see of depths I have yet to explore. With more time, we could have studied the original Greek and picked apart the sentence structure, studied related historical documents and the lives of the writers and the political movements of the Roman Empire and it’s all helpful. 

Knowing the historical details of the relationship between Jews and Samaritans in the first century, and the context of God’s command to “love your neighbour as yourself” in Leviticus, certainly does enhance my understanding of Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. But I don’t have to know all those things to the get the point of the story. In fact, if I really want to know what Jesus was talking about, there’s a better way to find out: 

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“Daddy, Can You Turn Off The Rain?”

My son was just a few years old, and he’d probably seen more rainy days than sunny ones in his short life. That’s what happens when you grow up in Ireland. I found him looking at his wet toys through the glass doors:

“Daddy, can you turn off the rain?”

It wasn’t a question, as much as a request. He wasn’t asking about whether I was capable of such a thing. He fully believed that I was. He just wanted to know if I would.

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Living In Far Away Problems

The news is a problem. It always is, one problem after another. Short problems and long ones, wildfires and wars and whatever else is going wrong. Even though most of the problems are thousands of miles away, I still receive constant updates on their status. Which is good if it prompts me to pray for those involved and give to help with relief. I’m glad the world is connected well enough for aid and prayers and concern to flow to far away areas of need. We need more of that, not less. But there’s a danger in it as well. 

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In Appreciation Of Grey

It’s a synonym for uncertainty, for ageing, and depression. It’s no wonder that it never gets claimed as a favourite colour. It is camouflage for cars and clothes, blending in with crowds and concrete, proclaiming no happiness but not heavy enough for proper mourning, either. It’s not a storm, but still blocks the sun. It’s grey.

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