When we moved from America to Ireland fourteen years ago, one of the first things we noticed was the architecture. The buildings in Ireland are quite different from the ones we grew up in, all the way up from the thick concrete (or stone) walls to the slate tiles (or rarely, thatch) on the roofs. The unique climate, resources, history, and culture have all helped to shape these buildings. And they have shaped not only the individual buildings, but also the way the buildings relate to each other and the spaces around them. For example, it makes sense that our village is compact enough to walk everywhere when you consider that it was built hundreds of years before cars were invented. We have cars now, but that’s still a great feature—I love being able to walk easily to any building in town. But one of my favourite features of Irish design is not a building at all. It’s not a structure of any kind, and it doesn’t take a degree in architecture or urban planning to understand it, imagine it, or built it. It’s just a bit of grass, and it’s known as “the green.”Continue reading The Green
Strangers Are Some Of The Nicest People You’ll Ever Meet
During the first covid lockdown, with its strict travel restrictions, our family discovered a local treasure: a little spot known as Brown Island. Our neighbour told us about it. It’s not an easy place to find. When we went the first time I had to ring him because we couldn’t find the entrance hidden away down a country lane through a small gap in the hedge you’d never notice unless someone like my neighbour told you exactly where to look.Continue reading Strangers Are Some Of The Nicest People You’ll Ever Meet
The Same Old Faces
My wife and I are planning to make some improvements to our garden this year, and one of the things we’d like to do is plant a new miniature apple tree. We like planting trees. It’s fun to anticipate what a newly planted tree will become in the years ahead. But there’s the rub: “years ahead.” Because if you want to eat the fruit from a tree, you need to give it time. A lot of time. You need to let it grow, put down roots, and become part of the ordinary, everyday scenery. It’s only after you look out of the window for years at the same old tree that you start to be able to reap the full harvest of fruit and shade and beauty and all that a tree can be in its maturity. By that time, the tree is nothing like new. The initial excitement of planting eventually gives way to a more settled appreciation and enjoyment of the tree as a part of everyday life.Continue reading The Same Old Faces
How An Attempted Car Theft Taught Me To Love Where I Live Even More
Last Friday evening, I finally got around to cleaning and washing the car, and refilling the windscreen wash. I can’t remember the last time I did any of that, which might tell you something about what it looked like before. The next morning, telling jokes along the way, my children and I walked out to the car to drive to basketball. When we got there I noticed that the driver’s side door frame was bent several inches away from the car. When I opened the door, I understood why: the steering column had been torn apart and the ignition wires were dangling loose.
Someone had tried to steal our car.Continue reading How An Attempted Car Theft Taught Me To Love Where I Live Even More
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.Continue reading How To Turn A Clique Inside Out
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.Continue reading My Head And The Headlines
A Great Way To Make Friends
He put down his coffee cup and summarised the problem:
“All I do is work, and take care of the children. When I get free time, I’m tired. I could go out, but what would I do? I don’t have friends to go anywhere with.”
He’s lonely. And he’s not the only one. He may not realise it, but he’s got plenty of company in that feeling. There are so many variations of it, in so many different kinds of people—married, single, young, old—and the feel-good Christmas movies and songs playing constantly right now only highlight the problem more.Continue reading A Great Way To Make Friends
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
The Reason For Windows
It’s a good thing I like my house. As Ireland’s third coronavirus lockdown drags on with no end in sight, we’re all getting used to being in our own spaces. One of the reasons I like my house is the windows, especially the ones in the back that let the sun stretch all the way across the floor whenever it takes a fancy. From those same windows, I can watch the songbirds gather at our bird feeder, and I can see the flowers bloom in our little garden. All of these things remind me that the world is bigger than the box I live in.Continue reading The Reason For Windows
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.Continue reading Living In Far Away Problems